Women are now living longer than ever before, yet the age of spontaneous menopause has remained stable. This results in an increasing realization of the need for an effective treatment of cognitive and physiological menopausal and post-menopausal symptoms. The most common estrogen component of hormone therapy, conjugated equine estrogens (CEE; Premarin) contains many estrogens that are not endogenous to the human body, and that may or may not be detrimental to cognition (Campbell and Whitehead, 1977; Engler-Chiurazzi et al., 2011; Acosta et al., 2010). We propose the use of a novel treatment option in the form of a naturally-circulating (bioidentical) estrogen called estriol. Due to estriol’s observed positive effects on synaptic functioning and neuroprotective effects in the hippocampus (Ziehn et al., 2012; Goodman et al., 1996), a brain structure important for spatial learning and memory, estriol is promising as a hormone therapy option that may attenuate menopausal- and age- related memory decline. In the current study, we administered one of the three bioidentical estrogens (17β-Estradiol, 4.0 µg/day; Estrone, 8.0 µg/day; Estriol, 8.0 µg/day) or the vehicle polyethylene glycol by subcutaneous osmotic pump to ovariectomized Fisher-344 rats. We compared these groups to each other using a battery of spatial learning tasks, including the water radial-arm maze (WRAM), Morris water maze (MM), and delayed-match-to-sample maze (DMS). We found that all estrogens impaired performance on the WRAM compared to vehicle, while 17β-estradiol administration improved overnight forgetting performance for the MM. The estriol group showed no cognitive enhancements relative to vehicle; however, there were several factors indicating that both our estriol and estradiol doses were too high, so future studies should investigate whether lower doses of estriol may be beneficial to cognition.
- Cognitive efficacy of three bioidentical, endogenously circulating estrogens given as hormone therapy: Extending prior findings and navigating into unchartered territory
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