Can short-term estrogen treatment during middle-age exert lasting positive effects on memory and the brain? That’s a question being investigated in the neuroscience laboratory of Jill Daniel, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, with the support of a recently awarded 3-year, $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Results of work from Dr. Daniel’s lab using a rat model of menopause demonstrate that 40 days of treatment with estrogen in female middle-aged rats, which is roughly equivalent to 3 – 4 years of treatment in women, improves memory and increases levels of important proteins in the hippocampus, a brain area critical for learning and memory. These effects persist into old age, long after the exposure to estrogen has been terminated. This work has implications for our understanding of cognitive aging in women as scientists investigate how the loss of ovarian hormones during menopause impacts the aging female brain.
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