Does estrogen help cognition? Many women ponder that question as a quality-of-life issue while deciding on estrogen therapy since it has been linked to potential disease complications. Now, a new study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests that the stress of any given task at least partially determines if hormones will help the mind.
Reporting in the August issue of Behavioral Neuroscience, four researchers show the introduction of a single stressor -- water temperature -- into a water maze prompted opposite responses among female rats with either high or low levels of estrogen and progesterone.
"Water temperature totally reversed who did better," said Janice M. Juraska, a professor of psychology and of neuroscience. "Proestrous rats, which have high hormone levels, did better when the water was warm, presumably because they were less stressed. Estrous rats did better when the water was cold, presumably because they are not as prone to get stressed during this time."
Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
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