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Estrogen May Enhance Memory And Learning

Update Date: Dec 16, 2015 02:50 PM EST

By adding estrogen to the brains of mice, their levels of short-term learning could be enhanced, found researchers at the University of Guelph 

Earlier, the hippocampus, which is a small area that is associated with memory and spatial navigation, was found to react to estrogen for learning and memory. Mice given systemic injections of estrogen could improve learning. However, the new findings showed that it is a "use-it-or-lose-it" process.

Researchers also recorded improvement in the learning within just 40 minutes of injecting estrogen into specific areas of the hippocampus. They then tested how easily the mice could recognise other mice or objects.

There seemed to be some increase in the spine synapses. While signals were passed through long cell extensions, or axons, to tiny spines on branches of nearby neurons, they did show signs of learning, yet researchers said that the potential links would be silent unless they were used for learning.

Thus, it is indeed a "use-it-or-lose-it" process, as co-author of the study and psychology professor at the university Elena Choleris explained.

The results can help post-menopausal women or those whose ovaries have been removed for medical reasons, though more studies are called for before they can be implemented. Boosting estrogen levels could help women, yet earlier studies show that such an "estrogen replacement therapy" might open women to the risk of cancer.

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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