From Medical Xpress:

The hippocampus is a region of the brain largely responsible for memory formation. Credit: Salk Institute

A new study by University of Guelph researchers that narrows down where and how estrogens affect the brain may help in understanding how the hormones affect cognition and memory in women, says psychology professor Elena Choleris.

The team found that adding the hormone to female mouse brains helps boost short-term learning, likely through a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ process, said Choleris, who co-authored the paper along with biomedical sciences professor Neil MacLusky.

The paper was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lead author Anna Phan, a recent PhD graduate who worked with both Guelph professors, is now a post-doc researcher at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida.

Researchers already knew that a region of the brain called the hippocampus responds to estrogens and is involved in cognition and memory.

An earlier study led by Phan showed that mice given systemic injections of the hormone improved their learning.

For this new study, the researchers recorded learning improvements within 40 minutes of injecting an estrogen directly into specific regions of the hippocampus, said Choleris.

The team assessed learning in mice by testing how readily they recognized other mice or objects, or objects moved to unfamiliar locations.

Brain cells communicate by passing signals through long cell extensions called axons to tiny spines located on branches of adjacent neurons. Within minutes of adding more estrogen, the team saw huge numbers of spine synapses growing…

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