Higher levels of estradiol replacement correlate with better spatial memory in surgically menopausal young and middle-aged rats

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2008 Jul;90(1):155-63. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2008.04.002. Epub 2008 May 16.


The current study investigated whether, for spatial reference memory, age impacts (1) sensitivity to surgical ovarian hormone loss (Ovx), (2) response to estradiol therapy (ET), and (3) the relation between circulating estradiol levels and memory scores in ovary-intact sham and Ovx plus ET rats. Young, middle-aged and aged Fischer-344 rats received sham, Ovx or Ovx plus ET treatments, and were then tested on the Morris maze. After the last test trial, a probe trial was given whereby the platform was removed. Circulating estradiol levels were then determined and correlated with performance. In Study 1, Ovx facilitated learning on day one, but impaired performance after day one, in young rats. Ovx did not influence performance in middle-aged rats. In young and middle-aged Ovx rats, ET enhanced performance with higher exogenous estradiol levels correlating with better performance during testing and the probe trial. There was no relationship between endogenous estradiol levels and performance in sham young or middle-aged rats. Study 2 showed that, like middle-aged rats, aged rats were not impacted by Ovx. Further, for aged Ovx rats, the ET regimen that was beneficial at earlier ages was no longer effective during test trials, and had only minor benefits for platform localization as assessed by the probe trial. Collectively, the findings suggest that the effects of Ovx as well as responsivity to the currently utilized ET regimen changes with age. Further, there appears to be a distinction between sensitivity to Ovx and responsiveness to ET after Ovx for spatial reference memory performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy
  • Female
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Menopause
  • Ovariectomy*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Regression Analysis
  • Space Perception / drug effects*


  • Estradiol