Effects of estrogen replacement therapy on PET cerebral blood flow and neuropsychological performance

Susan M. Resnick, Pauline M. Maki, Stephanie Golski, Michael A. Kraut, Alan B. Zonderman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

229 Scopus citations


Reports that estrogen may protect against age-associated memory decline and Alzheimer's Disease have kindled interest in the effects of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) on cognition and brain function. As part of a 9- year study in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, we are performing annual magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography (PET), and neuropsychological assessments to examine brain structure and function in individuals aged 55 and older. PET measurements of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) are obtained under 3 conditions: rest and verbal and figural delayed recognition memory tasks. Fifteen women receiving ERT (with or without the addition of progesterone) were compared with a matched sample of 17 untreated women. There were no significant differences between groups in regional brain volumes or ventricular size. However, ERT users and nonusers showed significant differences in PET-rCBF relative activation patterns during the memory tasks. During verbal memory processing, there were significant interactions in rCBF activations for the right parahippocampal gyrus, right precuneus, right frontal regions, and left hypothalamus. During figural memory processing, significant interactions were observed for right parahippocampal and inferior parietal regions and for left visual association and anterior thalamic regions. ERT users also showed better performance on neuropsychological tests of figural and verbal memory and on some aspects of the PET activation tests, although the two groups did not differ in education, overall verbal ability, or performance on other neuropsychological tests. These findings confirm our previous observation of the beneficial effects of ERT on figural memory. Moreover, differences in rCBF activation patterns between ERT users and nonusers suggest an area for future research to examine mechanisms through which ERT may influence memory and other cognitive abilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-182
Number of pages12
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1998


  • Cognition
  • Estrogen
  • Memory
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Regional cerebral blood flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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