Hormones impact stress, memories, and understanding social cues

November 11, 2013

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."

Explore further: New evidence on the biological basis of highly impulsive and aggressive behaviors

Related Stories

Findings reveal brain mechanisms at work during sleep

October 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

Computations of visual motion in the brain

May 22, 2017

Botond Roska and his group at the FMI have elucidated how the retina and the visual cortex work together in visual motion perception. They found that cortical cells, which respond preferentially to backward image motion, ...

Understanding the architecture of our 'second brain'

May 19, 2017

Scientists have made an important step in understanding the organisation of nerve cells embedded within the gut that control its function - a discovery that could give insight into the origin of common gastrointestinal diseases, ...

Flies the key to studying the causes of dementia

May 19, 2017

A research team from the University of Plymouth, University of Southampton and the Alexander Fleming Biomedical Sciences Research Center, Vari, Greece, have studied two structurally-similar proteins in the adult brain and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.