Because estrogens have mostly been studied in gonadectomized females, effects of chronic exposure to environmental estrogens in the general population are underestimated. Estrogens can enhance hippocampus-dependent memory through the modulation of information storage. However, declarative memory, the hippocampus-dependent memory of facts and events, demands more than abilities to retain information. Specifically, memory of repetitive events of everyday life such as "where I parked" requires abilities to organize/update memories to prevent proactive interference from similar memories of previous "parking events". Whether such organizational processes are estrogen-sensitive is unknown. We here studied, in intact young and aged adult mice, drinking-water (1μM) estradiol effects on both retention and organizational components of hippocampus-dependent memory, using a radial-maze task of everyday-like memory. Demand on retention vs organization was manipulated by varying the time-interval separating repetitions of similar events. Estradiol increased performance in young and aged mice under minimized organizational demand, but failed to improve the age-associated memory impairment and diminished performance in young mice under high organizational demand. In fact, estradiol prolonged mnemonic retention of successive events without improving organization abilities, hence resulted in more proactive interference from irrelevant memories. c-Fos imaging of testing-induced brain activations showed that the deterioration of young memory was associated with dentate gyrus dysconnectivity, reminiscent of that seen in aged mice. Our findings support the view that estradiol is promnesic but also reveal that such property can paradoxically impair memory. These findings have important outcomes regarding health issues relative to the impact of environmental estrogens in the general population.
Keywords: Aging; Estrogens; Everyday-like memory; Functional connectivity; Mnemonic update; c-Fos NeuroImaging.
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