Effect of Ovarian Hormone Therapy on Cognition in the Aged Female Rhesus Macaque

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Journal of Neuroscience

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Studies of the effect of hormone therapy on cognitive function in menopausal women have been equivocal, in part due to differences in the type and timing of hormone treatment. Here we cognitively tested aged female rhesus macaques on (1) the delayed response task of spatial working memory, (2) a visuospatial attention task that measured spatially and temporally cued reaction times, and (3) a simple reaction time task as a control for motor speed. After task acquisition, animals were ovariectomized (OVX). Their performance was compared with intact controls for 2 months, at which time no group differences were found. The OVX animals were then assigned to treatment with either a subcutaneous sham implant (OVX), 17-β estradiol (E) implant (OVX+E) or E implant plus cyclic oral progesterone (OVX+EP). All groups were then tested repeatedly over 12 months. The OVX+E animals performed significantly better on the delayed response task than all of the other groups for much of the 12 month testing period. The OVX+EP animals also showed improved performance in the delayed response task, but only at 30 s delays and with performance levels below that of OVX+E animals. The OVX+E animals also performed significantly better in the visuospatial attention task, particularly in the most challenging invalid cue condition; this difference also was maintained across the 12 month testing period. Simple reaction time was not affected by hormonal manipulation. These data demonstrate that chronic, continuous administration of E can exert multiple beneficial cognitive effects in aged, OVX rhesus macaque females. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Hormone therapy after menopause is controversial. We tested the effects of hormone replacement in aged rhesus macaques, soon after surgically-induced menopause [ovariectomy (OVX)], on tests of memory and attention. Untreated ovarian-intact and OVX animals were compared with OVX animals receiving estradiol (E) alone or E with progesterone (P). E was administered in a continuous fashion via subcutaneous implant, whereas P was administered orally in a cyclic fashion. On both tests, E-treated animals performed better than the other 3 experimental groups across 1 year of treatment. Thus, in this monkey model, chronic E administered soon after the loss of ovarian hormones had long-term benefits for cognitive function.



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