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Behav Brain Res. 2015 May 15;285:140-57. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.08.001. Epub 2014 Aug 15.

Regulation of object recognition and object placement by ovarian sex steroid hormones.

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Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53211, United States.
Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53211, United States. Electronic address:


The ovarian hormones 17β-estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4) are potent modulators of hippocampal memory formation. Both hormones have been demonstrated to enhance hippocampal memory by regulating the cellular and molecular mechanisms thought to underlie memory formation. Behavioral neuroendocrinologists have increasingly used the object recognition and object placement (object location) tasks to investigate the role of E2 and P4 in regulating hippocampal memory formation in rodents. These one-trial learning tasks are ideal for studying acute effects of hormone treatments on different phases of memory because they can be administered during acquisition (pre-training), consolidation (post-training), or retrieval (pre-testing). This review synthesizes the rodent literature testing the effects of E2 and P4 on object recognition (OR) and object placement (OP), and the molecular mechanisms in the hippocampus supporting memory formation in these tasks. Some general trends emerge from the data. Among gonadally intact females, object memory tends to be best when E2 and P4 levels are elevated during the estrous cycle, pregnancy, and in middle age. In ovariectomized females, E2 given before or immediately after testing generally enhances OR and OP in young and middle-aged rats and mice, although effects are mixed in aged rodents. Effects of E2 treatment on OR and OP memory consolidation can be mediated by both classical estrogen receptors (ERα and ERβ), and depend on glutamate receptors (NMDA, mGluR1) and activation of numerous cell signaling cascades (e.g., ERK, PI3K/Akt, mTOR) and epigenetic processes (e.g., histone acetylation, DNA methylation). Acute P4 treatment given immediately after training also enhances OR and OP in young and middle-aged ovariectomized females by activating similar cell signaling pathways as E2 (e.g., ERK, mTOR). The few studies that have administered both hormones in combination suggest that treatment can enhance OR and OP, but that effects are highly dependent on factors such as dose and timing of administration. In addition to providing more detail on these general conclusions, this review will discuss directions for future avenues of research into the hormonal regulation of object memory.


Estradiol; Hippocampus; Mouse; Object location; Progesterone; Rat

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