Interactive effects of age and estrogen on cognition and pyramidal neurons in monkey prefrontal cortex

Jiandong Hao, Peter R. Rapp, William G.M. Janssen, Wendy Lou, Bill L. Lasley, Patrick R. Hof, John Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


We previously reported that long-term cyclic estrogen (E) treatment reverses age-related impairment of cognitive function mediated by the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) in ovariectomized (OVX) female rhesus monkeys, and that E induces a corresponding increase in spine density in layer III dlPFC pyramidal neurons. We have now investigated the effects of the same E treatment in young adult females. In contrast to the results for aged monkeys, E treatment failed to enhance dlPFC-dependent task performance relative to vehicle control values (group young OVX+Veh) but nonetheless led to a robust increase in spine density. This response was accompanied by a decline in dendritic length, however, such that the total number of spines per neuron was equivalent in young OVX+Veh and OVX+E groups. Robust effects of chronological age, independent of ovarian hormone status, were also observed, comprising significant age-related declines in dendritic length and spine density, with a preferential decrease in small spines in the aged groups. Notably, the spine effects were partially reversed by cyclic E administration, although young OVX+Veh monkeys still had a higher complement of small spines than did aged E treated monkeys. In summary, layer III pyramidal neurons in the dlPFC are sensitive to ovarian hormone status in both young and aged monkeys, but these effects are not entirely equivalent across age groups. The results also suggest that the cognitive benefit of E treatment in aged monkeys is mediated by enabling synaptic plasticity through a cyclical increase in small, highly plastic dendritic spines in the primate dlPFC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11465-11470
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 3 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Estradiol
  • Hormone
  • Neocortex
  • Plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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