High estradiol reduces adult neurogenesis but strengthens functional connectivity within the hippocampus during spatial pattern separation in adult female rats

Horm Behav. 2023 Sep:155:105409. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2023.105409. Epub 2023 Aug 9.


Adult neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus plays an important role for pattern separation, the process of separating similar inputs and forming distinct neural representations. Estradiol modulates neurogenesis and hippocampus function, but to date no examination of estradiol's effects on pattern separation have been conducted. Here, we examined estrogenic regulation of adult neurogenesis and functional connectivity in the hippocampus after the spatial pattern separation task in female rats. Ovariectomized Sprague-Dawley rats received daily injections of vehicle, 0.32 μg (Low) or 5 μg (High) of estradiol benzoate until the end of experiment. A single bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) was injected one day after initiation of hormone or vehicle treatment and rats were tested in the delayed nonmatching to position spatial pattern separation task in the 8-arm radial maze for 12 days beginning two weeks after BrdU injection. Rats were perfused 90 min after the final trial and brain sections were immunohistochemically stained for BrdU/neuronal nuclei (NeuN) (new neurons), Ki67 (cell proliferation), and the immediate early gene, zif268 (activation). Results showed that high, but not low, estradiol reduced the density of BrdU/NeuN-ir cells and had significant inter-regional correlations of zif268-ir cell density in the hippocampus following pattern separation. Estradiol treatment did not influence pattern separation performance or strategy use. These results show that higher doses of estradiol can reduce neurogenesis but at the same time increases correlations of activity of neurons within the hippocampus during spatial pattern separation.

Keywords: Cell proliferation; Cell survival; Cognition; Dentate gyrus; Granule neuron; Immediate early gene; Strategy use; zif268.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bromodeoxyuridine / pharmacology
  • Dentate Gyrus*
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus*
  • Neurogenesis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • Estradiol