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An Evaluation of the Levonorgestrel-Releasing Intrauterine Device and its Impact on Cognitive Function in a Rat Model

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The aim of this study was to determine whether IUD administration, with and without the presence of Levo, and with and without the presence of the ovaries, impacts cognition in a rat model. Rats received either Sham or Ovariectomy (Ovx)

The aim of this study was to determine whether IUD administration, with and without the presence of Levo, and with and without the presence of the ovaries, impacts cognition in a rat model. Rats received either Sham or Ovariectomy (Ovx) surgery (removal of the ovaries), plus either no IUD, a Blank IUD (without Levo), or a Levo-releasing IUD (Levo IUD), enabling us to evaluate the effects of Ovx and the effects of IUD administration on cognition. Two weeks after surgery, all treatment groups were tested on the water radial arm maze, Morris water maze, and visible platform task to evaluate cognition. At sacrifice, upon investigation of the uteri, it was determined that some of the IUDs were no longer present in animals from these groups: Sham\u2014Blank IUD, Ovx\u2014Blank IUD, and Sham\u2014Levo IUD. Results from the remaining three groups showed that compared to Sham animals with no IUDs, Ovx animals with no IUDs had marginally impaired working memory performance, and that Ovx animals with Levo IUDs as compared to Ovx animals with no IUDs had marginally enhanced memory performance, not specific to a particular memory type. Results also showed that Ovx animals with Levo IUDs had qualitatively more cells in their vaginal smears and increased uterine horn weight compared to Ovx animals with no IUDs, suggesting local stimulation of the Levo IUDs to the uterine horns. Overall, these results provide alternative evidence to the hypothesis that the Levo IUD administers Levo in solely a localized manner, and suggests that the possibility for the Levo IUD to affect reproductive cyclicity in ovary-intact animals is not rejected. The potential for the Levo IUD to exert effects on cognition suggests that either the hormone does in fact systemically circulate, or that the Levo IUD administration affects cognition by altering an as yet undetermined hormonal or other feedback between the uterus and the brain.

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2018-12

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Deficits in Spatial Working Memory Depend on Age in a Novel Rat Model of Alzheimer's Disease

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There are currently no disease-modifying treatments to halt or attenuate the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Transgenic rodent models have provided researchers the ability to recapitulate particular pathological and symptomological events in disease progression. Complete reproduction of all features of

There are currently no disease-modifying treatments to halt or attenuate the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Transgenic rodent models have provided researchers the ability to recapitulate particular pathological and symptomological events in disease progression. Complete reproduction of all features of AD in a rodent model has not been achieved, potentially lending to the inconclusive treatment results at the clinical level. Recently, the TgF344-AD transgenic rat model has started to be evaluated; however, it has not been well characterized in terms of its cognition, which is fundamental to understanding the trajectory of aging relative to pathology and learning and memory changes. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to identify cognitive outcomes at 6, 9, and 12 months of age in the TgF344-AD rat model. Sixty female transgenic (Tg) and wildtype (WT) rats were tested on the water radial arm maze, Morris water maze, and visible platform task to evaluate cognition. Results from the asymptotic phase of the water radial arm maze showed that the 6 mo-Tg animals had marginally impaired working memory compared to 6 mo-WT rats, and 12 mo-Tg rats had significantly impaired working memory compared to 12 mo-WT rats. The 9 mo-Tg animals did not demonstrate a significant difference in working memory errors compared to the 9 mo-WT animals. This pattern of impairment, wherein Tg animals made more working memory errors compared to WT animals at the 6 and 12 month time points, but not at the 9 month time point, may be indicative of an inflammatory response that proves helpful at incipient stages of disease progression but eventually leads to further cognitive impairment. These results provide insight into the potential earliest time point that prodromal cognitive symptoms of AD exist, and how they progress with aging. Brain tissue was collected at sacrifice for future analyses of pathology, which will be used to glean insight into the temporal progression of pathological and cognitive outcomes.

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2020-05

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The first in its class? The cognitive effects of the contraceptive hormone drospirenone when given with and without an estrogen

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Drospirenone (DRSP) is a novel, pharmacologically unique synthetic progestin with properties more similar to the endogenous progestogen, progesterone, than any other progestin currently on the market. While a significant amount of research has been conducted on the risks associated with

Drospirenone (DRSP) is a novel, pharmacologically unique synthetic progestin with properties more similar to the endogenous progestogen, progesterone, than any other progestin currently on the market. While a significant amount of research has been conducted on the risks associated with DRSP, the impact of DRSP on cognition, especially in reference to learning and memory, is not well understood. However, it is imperative to fully understand the cognitive effects of DRSP, both alone and in combination with EE (as taken in a combined oral contraceptive [COC]), so that women and their physicians can make a fully-informed decision when deciding to take a DRSP-containing COC. Study 1 examined the effects of three doses of DRSP in order to determine the optimal dose for combining with EE, and found that the medium dose of DRSP (30 µg/day) enhanced spatial working memory performance. In Study 2, the medium dose of DRSP from Study 1 was combined with low (0.125 µg/day) and high (0.3 µg/day) doses of EE to examine the effects of DRSP as taken with EE in a COC. The results from Study 2 indicated that when DRSP was combined with a low, but not high, dose of EE, spatial working memory impairments were seen at the highest working memory load. Anxiety-like behavior was evaluated using the OFT, and DRSP was shown to decrease measures of anxiety-like behavior. Additionally, while treatment with a high dose of EE decreased several measures of anxiety-like behavior, a low dose of EE did not, suggestive of a dose response. Taken together, the findings presented from both studies suggest that some of the cognitive effects of the combination of DRSP with EE are different than those of either hormone administered on its own. Further exploration in a preclinical, ovary-intact animal model is a next step to fully understand these effects in the translational context of a contraceptive, given that women taking an EE-DRSP combination are typically ovary-intact.

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2017-05

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Human Auditory Biases Match Natural Regularities Found With Animal Calls

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Human perceptual dimensions of sound are not necessarily simple representations of the actual physical dimensions that make up sensory input. In particular, research on the perception of interactions between acoustic frequency and intensity has shown that people exhibit a bias

Human perceptual dimensions of sound are not necessarily simple representations of the actual physical dimensions that make up sensory input. In particular, research on the perception of interactions between acoustic frequency and intensity has shown that people exhibit a bias to expect the perception of pitch and loudness to change together. Researchers have proposed that this perceptual bias occurs because sound sources tend to follow a natural regularity of a correlation between changes in intensity and frequency of sound. They postulate that the auditory system has adapted to expect this naturally occurring relationship to facilitate auditory scene analysis, the tracking and parsing sources of sound as listeners analyze their auditory environments. However, this correlation has only been tested with human speech and musical sounds. The current study explores if animal sounds also exhibit the same natural correlation between intensity and frequency and tests if people exhibit a perceptual bias to assume this correlation when listening to animal calls. Our principal hypotheses are that animal sounds will tend to exhibit a positive correlation between intensity and frequency and that, when hearing such sounds change in intensity, listeners will perceive them to also change in frequency and vice versa. Our tests with 21 animal calls and 8 control stimuli along with our experiment with participants responding to these stimuli supported these hypotheses. This research provides a further example of coupling of perceptual biases with natural regularities in the auditory domain, and provides a framework for understanding perceptual biases as functional adaptations that help perceivers more accurately anticipate and utilize reliable natural patterns to enhance scene analyses in real world environments.

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2014-05

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The Importance of Studying Interactions With Ovarian Hormones: Implications for Depressive Symptoms in Premenopausal and Menopausal Women

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The relevance of depression in the clinical realm is well known, as it is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Clinical depression is the leading cause of disease for women worldwide. The sex difference in

The relevance of depression in the clinical realm is well known, as it is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Clinical depression is the leading cause of disease for women worldwide. The sex difference in depression and anxiety has guided the research of not just recent studies but older studies as well, supporting the theory that gonadal hormones are associated with the mechanisms of emotional cognition. The scientific literature points towards a clear correlative relationship between gonadal hormones, especially estrogens, and emotion regulation. This thesis investigates the neural pathways that have been indicated to regulate mood and anxiety. Currently, the research points to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which regulates the stress response through its ultimate secretion of cortisol through the adrenal cortex, and its modulated response when exposed to higher levels of estrogen. Another mechanism that has been investigated is the interaction of estrogen and the serotonergic system, which is noteworthy because the serotonergic system is known for its importance in mood regulation. However, it is important to note that the research seeking to determine the neurobiological underpinnings of estrogen and the serotonergic system is not expansive. Future research should focus on determining the direct relationship between cortisol hypersecretion and estrogens, the specific neurobiological effects of serotonergic receptor subtypes on the antidepressant actions of estrogens, and the simultaneous effects of the stress and serotonergic systems on depressive symptoms.

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2021-05

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Relationships Between the Inflammatory Responses of the Immune System and Periods of Critical Hormonal Shifts in Females Across the Lifespan: A Pregnancy Review

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In females, critical hormonal shifts occur during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and <br/>menopause. The fluctuating ovarian hormone levels across a woman’s lifespan likely contribute <br/>to inflammatory responses driven by the immune system, which is regulated by a variety of <br/>physiological pathways

In females, critical hormonal shifts occur during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and <br/>menopause. The fluctuating ovarian hormone levels across a woman’s lifespan likely contribute <br/>to inflammatory responses driven by the immune system, which is regulated by a variety of <br/>physiological pathways and microbiological cues. Pregnancy in particular results in drastic <br/>changes in circulating hormone profiles, and involves a variety of physiological changes, <br/>including inflammatory responses of the immune system. There is evidence that these effects are <br/>mediated, in part, by the significant hormone fluctuations that characterize pregnancy and <br/>postpartum periods. This thesis highlights and synthesizes important physiological changes <br/>associated with pregnancy, and their potential implications on cognitive and brain aging in <br/>women. A tertiary model of cognition is presented depicting interactions between hormonal <br/>history, reproductive history, and immune functions. This research is important to create a better <br/>understanding of women’s health and enhance medical care for women throughout pregnancy <br/>and across reproductive hormone shifts across the lifespan.

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2021-05

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Sit-to-stand task with physical and cognitive perturbations: A comparison of linear and nonlinear methods of analyzing postural data

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Variability is inherent in human movement, and poses a challenge to researchers attempting to measure balance. Human movement variability was analyzed using two methods: standard deviation and largest Lyapunov exponent. The experiment was a sit-to-stand task with physical and cognitive

Variability is inherent in human movement, and poses a challenge to researchers attempting to measure balance. Human movement variability was analyzed using two methods: standard deviation and largest Lyapunov exponent. The experiment was a sit-to-stand task with physical and cognitive perturbations. The physical perturbation consisted of stable and unstable platform conditions, while the cognitive perturbation consisted of a counting task. The data were collected from 24 healthy young adults. The purpose of this study was to compare the standard deviation and largest Lyapunov exponent as measures of stability, and to determine the Lyapunov exponent's sensitivity to cognitive perturbation. Evidence suggests that the Lyapunov exponent serves as a more accurate indicator of stability than standard deviation, and that it lacks sensitivity to the counting task.

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2016-12

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An Evaluation of the Cognitive Effects of Clinically Used Combination Hormone Therapy

Description

Estradiol (E2) and Levonorgestrel (Levo) are two hormones commonly used in hormone therapy (HT) to decrease symptoms associated with menopause. Both of these hormones have been shown to have beneficial effects on cognition when given alone in a rodent model

Estradiol (E2) and Levonorgestrel (Levo) are two hormones commonly used in hormone therapy (HT) to decrease symptoms associated with menopause. Both of these hormones have been shown to have beneficial effects on cognition when given alone in a rodent model of menopause. However, it is unknown whether these hormones, when taken in combination, are beneficial or harmful to cognition. This is a critically important question given that these hormones are most often given in combination versus separately. This thesis is composed of two studies examining the cognitive effects of E2 and Levo using a rat model of surgical menopause. Study 1 assessed how the dose of E2 treatment in rats impacted cognitive performance, and found that low dose E2 enhanced working memory performance. Next, based on the results from Study 1, Study 2 used low dose E2 in combination with different doses of Levo to examine the cognitive effects of several E2 to Levo ratio combinations. The results from Study 2 demonstrated that the combination of low dose E2 with a high dose of Levo at a 1:2 ratio impaired cognition, and that the ratio currently used in HT, 3:1, may also negatively impact cognition. Indeed, there was a dose response effect indicating that working and reference memory performance was incrementally impaired as Levo dose increased. The findings in this thesis suggest that the E2 plus Levo combination is likely not neutral for cognitive function, and prompts further evaluation in menopausal women, as well as drug discovery research to optimize HT using highly controlled preclinical models.

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2016-12