Findings from basic neuroscience have elucidated mechanisms of action of estrogen on the structure and function of brain areas known to be critically involved in memory. Controlled clinical studies of the administration of estrogen to postmenopausal women have found that estrogen enhances verbal memory and maintains the ability to learn new material. These findings are supported by those from investigations of healthy, elderly, women and by results of a study in which younger women received a gonadotropin releasing-hormone analog that suppressed ovarian function. The specificity of the estrogenic effect on cognitive functions is consistent with known sex differences in cognitive abilities and suggests that, in adulthood, estrogen serves to activate neural pathways established under the influence of this steroid hormone during prenatal life.
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