Cognition in aged rhesus monkeys: effect of DHEA and correlation with steroidogenic gene expression

K. G. Sorwell, L. Renner, A. R. Weiss, M. Neuringer, S. G. Kohama, H. F. Urbanski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Estradiol supplementation has been shown to enhance cognitive performance in old ovariectomized rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). To determine if similar benefits could be achieved in perimenopausal animals using alternative hormonal supplements, we administered dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) to old ovary-intact female rhesus macaques for ∼2.5 months. Using computerized touch screen memory tasks, including delayed response (DR) and delayed matching-to-sample (DMS), we observed improved performance with time in all of the animals but failed to detect a significant effect of DHEA. On the other hand, gene expression profiling disclosed a significant correlation between cognitive performance and the expression of several steroidogenic and steroid-responsive genes. The DR performance was positively correlated with hippocampal expression of AKR1C3 and STAR and negatively correlated with the expression of SDRD5A1. A positive correlation was also found between DMS performance and prefrontal cortical expression of AKR1C3 and a negative correlation with STAR, as well as a negative correlation with the hippocampal expression of HSD11B1 and NR3C1. Taken together, the results suggest that steroidogenic gene regulation within the brain may help to maintain cognitive function during the perimenopausal transition period, despite a decline in sex-steroid levels in the circulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-368
Number of pages8
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants AG023477, AG029612, AG036670 and OD011092. The authors confirm that no actual, or potential, conflicts of interest exist.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society


  • Cognition
  • cortisol
  • cortisone
  • dehydroepiandrosterone
  • estradiol
  • hippocampus
  • hormone therapy
  • menopause
  • perimenopause
  • prefrontal cortex


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