Preliminary evidence that estrogen protects against age-related hippocampal atrophy

Neurobiol Aging. 2003 Sep;24(5):725-32. doi: 10.1016/s0197-4580(02)00056-8.


Few studies have examined gender differences in hippocampal volumes, and the potential effect of estrogen on these measures has not been well studied. We used MRI to measure hippocampal volumes in elderly Mexican American men and women subjects in order to determine if there were gender differences and if estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) had an effect on hippocampal volume in postmenopausal women. MRI measures of hippocampal volumes (normalized to intracranial volume) were compared in 59 women and 38 men. Further comparisons were made between men subjects, women subjects taking ERT, and women subjects not taking ERT. There were no significant effects of gender on normalized hippocampal volumes. However, women subjects taking ERT had larger right hippocampal volumes than women subjects not taking ERT and larger anterior hippocampal volumes than men subjects and women subjects not taking ERT. These findings suggest a neuroprotective effect of estrogen.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrophy / metabolism
  • Atrophy / prevention & control
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy / methods*
  • Estrogens / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause / metabolism
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Estrogens