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Long-term hormone treatment increases synapses in rat prefrontal cortex
Date:7/9/2012

CHAMPAIGN, lll. A new study of aged female rats found that long-term treatment with estrogen and a synthetic progesterone known as MPA increased levels of a protein marker of synapses in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region known to suffer significant losses in aging.

The new findings appear to contradict the results of the Women's Health Initiative, a long-term study begun in 1991 to analyze the effects of hormone therapy on a large sample of healthy postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79. Among other negative findings, the WHI found that long-term exposure to estrogen alone or to estrogen and MPA resulted in an increased risk of stroke and dementia. More recent research, however, suggests that starting hormone replacement therapy at the onset of menopause, rather than years or decades afterward, yields different results.

The new study, from researchers at the University of Illinois, is the first to look at the effects of long-term treatment with estrogen and MPA on the number of synapses in the prefrontal cortex of aged animals. The researchers describe their findings in a paper in the journal Menopause.

The prefrontal cortex, just behind the forehead in humans, governs what researchers call "executive function" planning, strategic thinking, working memory (the ability to hold information in mind just long enough to use it), self-control and other functions that tend to decline with age.

"The prefrontal cortex is the area of the human brain that loses the most volume with age," said U. of I. psychology professor and Beckman Institute affiliate Janice Juraska, who led the study with doctoral student Nioka Chisholm. "So under
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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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