An update on the cognitive impact of clinically-used hormone therapies in the female rat: Models, mazes, and mechanisms

J. I. Acosta, R. Hiroi, B. W. Camp, J. S. Talboom, Heather Bimonte-Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In women, ovarian hormone loss associated with menopause has been related to cognitive decline. Hormone therapy (HT) may ameliorate some of these changes. Understanding the cognitive impact of female steroids, including estrogens, progestogens, and androgens, is key to discovering treatments that promote brain health in women. The preclinical literature has presented elegant and methodical experiments allowing a better understanding of parameters driving the cognitive consequences of ovarian hormone loss and HT. Animal models have been a valuable tool in this regard, and will be vital to future discoveries. Here, we provide an update on the literature evaluating the impact of female steroid hormones on cognition, and the putative mechanisms mediating these effects. We focus on preclinical work that was done with an eye toward clinical realities. Parameters that govern the cognitive efficacy of HT, from what we know thus far, include but are not limited to: type, dose, duration, and route of HT, age at HT initiation, timing of HT relative to ovarian hormone loss, memory type examined, menopause history, and hormone receptor status. Researchers have identified intricate relationships between some of these factors by studying their individual effects on cognition. As of late, there is increased focus on studying interactions between these variables as well as multiple hormone types when administered concomitantly. This is key to translating preclinical data to the clinic, wherein women typically have concurrent exposure to endogenous ovarian hormones as well as exogenous combination HTs, which include both estrogens and progestins. Gains in understanding the parameters of HT effects on cognition provide exciting novel avenues that can inform clinical treatments, eventually expanding the window of opportunity to optimally enhance cognition and brain health in aging women. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Hormone Therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-39
Number of pages22
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Jun 13 2013


  • Androgen
  • Cognition
  • Estrogen
  • Hormone loss
  • Hormone therapy
  • Memory
  • Menopause
  • Progestogen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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