The surprising discovery in 1990 that estrogen modulates hippocampal structural plasticity launched a whole new field of scientific inquiry. Over the past two decades, estrogen-induced spinogenesis has been described in several brain areas involved in cognition in a number of species, in both sexes and on multiple time scales. Exploration into the interaction between estrogen and aging has illuminated some of the hormone's neuroprotective effects, most notably on age-related cognitive decline in nonhuman primates. Although there is still much to be learned about the mechanisms by which estrogen exerts its actions, key components of the signal transduction pathways are beginning to be elucidated and nongenomic actions via membrane bound estrogen receptors are of particular interest. Future studies are focused on identifying the most clinically relevant hormone treatment, as well as the potential identification of new therapeutics that can prevent or reverse age-related cognitive impairment by intercepting specific signal transduction pathways initiated by estrogen.