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Physiol Behav. 1995 Oct;58(4):715-23.

Effect of ovarian steroids on footshock avoidance learning and retention in female mice.

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Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), VA Medical Center, St. Louis University School of Medicine, MO 63106, USA.


Mice were trained to avoid footshock in a T-maze, with retention tested one week later. Adult male CD-1 mice made their first avoidance during acquisition after fewer trials than random cycling females and with less variability. Female mice in diestrus, when plasma levels of progesterone are low, learned to avoid footshock faster than females in estrus. Ovariectomized (OVX) mice learned in fewer trials than intact random cycling mice. Similar differences, though of a smaller magnitude, were found on the retention tests (i.e. males had better retention than females, mice in diestrus showed better retention 8 days later when in the same part of the estrous cycle than those in estrus, and OVX mice had better retention than cycling females). OVX mice with estrogen implants learned faster than those with progesterone implants or progesterone plus estrogen implants. Hormonal status did not affect sensitivity to acoustic or footshock stimuli as measured by a startle reflex, nor did it affect activity. Pretraining administration of amphetamine, picrotoxin and strychnine attenuated the impairing effect of progesterone on acquisition. The possibility that progesterone may impair learning and to some extent, retention by facilitating the GABAergic activity and thereby reducing arousal level is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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