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Brain Res. 2013 Jun 13;1514:50-62. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.01.020. Epub 2013 Feb 4.

Translational cognitive endocrinology: designing rodent experiments with the goal to ultimately enhance cognitive health in women.

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Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.


Understanding the cognitive impact of endogenously derived, and exogenously administered, hormone alterations is necessary for developing hormone treatments to support healthy brain function in women, especially during aging. The increasing number of studies in the burgeoning area of translational cognitive neuroendocrinology has revealed numerous factors that influence the extent and direction of female steroid effects on cognition. Here, we discuss the decision processes underlying the design of rodent hormone manipulation experiments evaluating learning and memory. It is noted that even when beginning with a clear hypothesis-driven question, there are numerous factors to consider in order to solidify a sound experimental design that will yield clean, interpretable results. Decisions and considerations include: age of animals at hormone administration and test, ovariectomy implementation, when to administer hormones relative to ovarian hormone loss, how and whether to monitor the estrous cycle if animals are ovary-intact, dose of hormone, administration route of hormone, hormone treatment confirmation protocols, handling procedures required for hormone administration and treatment confirmation, cognitive domains to be tested and which mazes should be utilized to test these cognitive domains, and control measures to be used. A balanced view of optimal design and realistic experimental practice and protocol is presented. The emerging results from translational cognitive neuroendocrinology studies have been diverse, but also enlightening and exciting as we realize the broad scope and powerful nature of ovarian hormone effects on the brain and its function. We must design, implement, and interpret hormone and cognition experiments with sensitivity to these tenets, acknowledging and respecting the breadth and depth of the impact gonadal hormones have on brain functioning and its rich plasticity. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Hormone Therapy.

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