Chronic estradiol treatment increases CA1 cell survival but does not improve visual or spatial recognition memory after global ischemia in middle-aged female rats

M. De Butte-Smith, M. Gulinello, R. S. Zukin, A. M. Etgen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Transient global ischemia induces selective, delayed neuronal death in the hippocampal CA1 and cognitive deficits. Physiological levels of 17β-estradiol ameliorate ischemia-induced neuronal death and cognitive impairments in young animals. In view of concerns regarding hormone therapy in postmenopausal women, we investigated whether chronic estradiol treatment initiated 14 days prior to ischemia attenuates ischemia-induced CA1 cell loss and impairments in visual and spatial memory, in ovariohysterectomized (OVX), middle-aged (9-11 months) female rats. To determine whether the duration of hormone withdrawal affects the efficacy of estradiol treatment, hormone treatment was initiated immediately (0 week), 1 week, or 8 weeks after OVX. Age-matched, OVX and gonadally intact females were studied at each OVX interval. Ischemia was induced 1 week after animals were pretested on a variety of behavioral tasks. Global ischemia produced significant neuronal loss in the CA1 and impaired performance on visual and spatial recognition. Chronic estradiol modestly but significantly increased the number of surviving CA1 neurons in animals at all OVX durations. However, in contrast with previous results in young females, estradiol did not preserve visual or spatial memory performance in middle-aged females. All animals displayed normal locomotion, spontaneous alternation and social preference, indicating the absence of global behavioral impairments. Therefore, the neuroprotective effects of estradiol are different in middle-aged than in young rats. These findings highlight the importance of using older animals in studies assessing potential treatments for focal and global ischemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)442-453
Number of pages12
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2009



  • Cognition
  • Estrogen
  • Hippocampus
  • Ischemia
  • Neuroprotection
  • Object recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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