Estrogen and Hippocampal Plasticity in Rodent Models
Accumulating evidence indicates that ovarian hormones regulate a wide variety of non-reproductive functions in the central nervous system by interacting with several molecular and cellular processes. A growing animal literature using both adult and aged rodent models indicates that 17β-estradiol, the most potent of the biologically relevant estrogens, facilitates some forms of learning and memory, in particular those that involve hippocampal-dependent tasks. A recently developed triple-transgenic mouse (3xTg-AD) has been widely used as an animal model of Alzheimer's disease, as this mouse exhibits an age-related and progressive neuropathological phenotype that includes both plaque and tangle pathology mainly restricted to hippocampus, amygdala and cerebral cortex. In this report, we examine recent studies that compare the effects of ovarian hormones on synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity in adult and aged rodents. A better understanding of the non-reproductive functions of ovarian hormones has far-reaching implications for hormone therapy to maintain health and function within the nervous system throughout aging.