Impact of dietary genistein and aging on executive function in rats

Steven L. Neese, Victor C. Wang, Daniel R. Doerge, Kellie A. Woodling, Juan E. Andrade, William G. Helferich, Donna L. Korol, Susan L. Schantz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Genistein is an estrogenic soy isoflavone widely promoted for healthy aging, but its effects on cognitive function are not well-understood. We examined the cognitive effects of once daily oral genistein treatment at two doses (approximately 162 μg/kg/day low dose and a 323 μg/kg/day high dose) in ovariectomized young (7 month), middle-aged (16 month), and old (22 month) Long-Evans rats. Operant tasks including delayed spatial alternation (DSA), differential reinforcement of low rates of responding (DRL), and reversal learning that tap prefrontal cortical function were used to assess working memory, inhibitory control/timing, and strategy shifting, respectively. At the conclusion of cognitive testing, brains were collected and relative densities of D1 and D2 dopamine receptors and dopamine transporter (DAT) were measured in the prefrontal cortex. On the DSA task, the high dose old group performed worse than both the high dose young and middle-aged groups. On the DRL task, the high dose of genistein resulted in a marginally significant impairment in the ratio of reinforced to non-reinforced lever presses. This effect was present across age groups. Age effects were also found as old rats performed more poorly than the young and middle-aged rats on the DSA overall. In contrast, middle-aged and old rats made fewer lever presses on the DRL than did the young rats, a pattern of behavior associated with better performance on this task. Moreover, while DAT levels overall decreased with age, genistein treatment produced an increase in DAT expression in old rats relative to similarly aged control rats. D1 and D2 densities did not differ between genistein dose groups or by age. These results highlight the fact that aspects of executive function are differentially sensitive to both genistein exposure and aging and suggest that altered prefrontal dopamine function could potentially play a role in mediating these effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)200-211
Number of pages12
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Dopamine
  • Executive function
  • Genistein
  • Prefrontal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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