Estrogens have been shown to have a strong influence on such cognitive domains as spatial memory, response learning, and several tasks of executive function, including both working memory and attention. However, the effects of estrogens on inhibitory control and timing behavior, both important aspects of executive function, have received relatively little attention. We examined the effects of estradiol on inhibitory control and timing behavior using a differential reinforcement of low rates of responding (DRL) task. Ovariectomized young (3. month), middle-aged (12. month), and old (18. month) Long-Evans rats were implanted with Silastic implants containing 0, 5 or 10% 17β-estradiol in cholesterol vehicle and were tested on a DRL task requiring them to wait 15. s between lever presses to receive a food reinforcer. The ratio of reinforced to non-reinforced lever presses did not differ across age in the cholesterol vehicle group. Conversely, 17β-estradiol impaired learning of the DRL task in young and middle-aged rats, but the learning of old rats was not impaired relative to vehicle controls following either 5% or 10% 17β-estradiol treatment. Overall, old rats also made fewer lever presses than both the young and middle-aged rats. These results provide new evidence that estrogens impair inhibitory control, an important aspect of self regulation, and add to existing evidence that estrogens differentially affect cognition at different ages.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience