Estrogens are well known for their enhancing effects on hippocampus-sensitive cognition. However, estrogens can also impair learning and memory, particularly the acquisition of striatumsensitive tasks. These cognitive shifts appear to be mediated through local estrogen receptor (ER) activation in each neural structure, but little information is known regarding which specific ER subtypes drive the opposing effects on learning. Elucidating the mnemonic roles of discrete ER subtypes is essential for predicting how treatments with distinct ER pharmacology such as drugs, hormone therapies, and phytoestrogen supplements affect cognitive abilities in and thus the daily lives of the women who take them. The present study examined the effects of the ERα-selective compound propyl pyrazole triol and the ERβ-selective compounds diarylpropionitrile and Br-ERb-041 on place and response learning in young adult female rats. Long-Evans rats were ovariectomized and maintained on phytoestrogen-free chow for 3 weeks before behavioral training, with treatments administered via subcutaneous injection 48 and 24 hours before testing. A dose-response paradigm was used, with each compound tested at 4 different doses in separate groups of rats. Propyl pyrazole triol, diarylpropionitrile, and Br-ERb-041 all enhanced place learning and impaired response learning, albeit with distinct dose-response patterns for each compound and task. These results are consistent with the detection of ERα and ERβ in the hippocampus and striatumandsuggest that learning is modulated via activation of eitherERsubtype.
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