The female steroid hormone 17beta-estradiol enhances synaptic transmission and the magnitude of longterm potentiation (LTP) in adult rodent hippocampal slices. Long-term depression (LTD), another form of synaptic plasticity, occurs more prominently in hippocampal slices from aged rodents. A decrease in LTP has been recorded in hippocampal slices from adult rodents behaviorally stressed just before tissue preparation and electrophysiological recording. Here, the authors test the hypothesis that estrogen modifies synaptic plasticity in both adult and aged rodents, whether behaviorally stressed or not. Our results indicate that estrogen enhances LTP and attenuates LTD, thus producing a protective effect against both aging and stress. These results also provide new approaches that can be used to reverse age and stress-related learning and memory dysfunction.