Neuroscientists as cartographers: Mapping the crossroads of gonadal hormones, memory and age using animal models

Heather Bimonte-Nelson, Jazmin I. Acosta, Joshua S. Talboom

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Cognitive function is multidimensional and complex, and research in multiple species indicates it is considerably impacted by age and gonadal hormone milieu. One domain of cognitive function particularly susceptible to age-related decrements is spatial memory. Gonadal hormones can alter spatial memory, and they are potent modulators of brain microstructure and function in many of the same brain areas affected by aging. In this paper, we review decades of animal and human literature to support a tertiary model representing interactions between gonadal hormones, spatial cognition and age given that: 1) gonadal hormones change with age, 2) age impacts spatial learning and memory, and 3) gonadal hormones impact spatial learning and memory. While much has been discovered regarding these individual tenets, the compass for future aging research points toward clarifying the interactions that exist between these three points, and understanding mediating variables. Indeed, identifying and aligning the various components of the complex interactions between these tenets, including evaluations using basic science, systems, and clinical perspectives, is the optimal approach to attempt to converge the many findings that may currently appear contradictory. In fact, as discoveries are being made it is becoming clear that the findings across studies that appear contradictory are not contradictory at all. Rather, there are mediating variables that are influencing outcome and affecting the extent, and even the direction, of the effects that gonadal hormones have on cognition during aging. These mediating variables are just starting to be understood. By aligning basic scientific discoveries with clinical interpretations, we can maximize the opportunities for discoveries and subsequent interventions to allow individuals to "optimize their aging" and find their own map to cognitive health as aging ensues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6050-6105
Number of pages56
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Aging
  • Androgens
  • Cognition
  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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