Hormones impact stress, memories, and understanding social cues

Research released today demonstrates unexpected roles that sex hormones may play in the cognitive function of females, including memory and interpreting social cues. Additionally, a chemical identified in pregnant mice may provide insight into developmental disorders, such as schizophrenia. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

Today's new findings show that:

  • Maternal stress can reduce levels of a chemical in the placenta that influences many other functions, such as development in mice. Additionally, the chemical could serve as a biomarker for maternal stress, a known risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and schizophrenia (Tracy Bale, PhD, abstract 380.08, see attached summary).
  • Estrogen replacement therapy in post-menopausal women may help prevent stress-related memory loss (Alexandra Ycaza, MA, abstract 376.1, see attached summary).

Other recent findings discussed show that:

  • Tamoxifen, a drug used to treat breast cancer, may protect against cognitive loss in post-menopausal women (Paul Newhouse, MD, presentation 376.03, see attached speaker summary).
  • Estrogens, commonly thought of as a female reproductive hormone, are produced in the brains of males and females. In songbirds, estrogen may help process auditory in both sexes and in males (Luke Remage-Healey, PhD, presentation 204.06, see attached speaker summary).

"Researchers are recognizing there are more differences between male and female biologies than originally thought," said press conference moderator Catherine Woolley of Northwestern University, an expert on hormones such as estrogen. "These new studies help to show how and the actions of hormones in the brain affect how we develop, respond to the environment, and how we age. Through understanding sex differences, we can improve the way biology informs medicine."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Findings reveal brain mechanisms at work during sleep

Oct 16, 2012

New findings presented today report the important role sleep plays, and the brain mechanisms at work as sleep shapes memory, learning, and behavior. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of ...

Recommended for you

A new cause of mental disease?

2 hours ago

Astrocytes, the cells that make the background of the brain and support neurons, might be behind mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, according to new research by a Portuguese team from ...

Molecular basis of age-related memory loss explained

Jul 22, 2014

From telephone numbers to foreign vocabulary, our brains hold a seemingly endless supply of information. However, as we are getting older, our ability to learn and remember new things declines. A team of ...

The neurochemistry of addiction

Jul 22, 2014

We've all heard the term "addictive personality," and many of us know individuals who are consistently more likely to take the extra drink or pill that puts them over the edge. But the specific balance of ...

Study examines blood markers, survival in patients with ALS

Jul 21, 2014

The blood biomarkers serum albumin and creatinine appear to be associated with survival in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and may help define prognosis in patients after they are diagnosed with the fatal ...

User comments