Sex Dimorphisms in the Rate of Age-Related Decline in Spatial Memory: Relevance to Alterations in the Estrous Cycle
Journal of Neuroscience
The present experiments demonstrate the existence of sex differences in the rate of development and the magnitude of age-dependent impairments in cognitive and sensorimotor abilities. Although no sex differences were found in spatial reference memory at a young age, the mnemonic ability of female rats deteriorated more rapidly than that of male rats. A major drop in reference memory of the females occurred at the age of 12 months, whereas in the males the onset of impairments occurred later, at
... occurred later, at the age of 18 months. In spatial working memory, on the other hand, the magnitude of decline was greater in females than in males, although the onset of these impairments occurred at the age of 24 months in both sexes. A sexual dimorphism-aging interaction also was observed in sen-sorimotor performance. Up to the age of 18 months the females outperformed the males. Subsequently, by the age of 24 months, the performance of the females declined to a level similar to that of the males. The deficits observed in reference and working memory seem to be cognitive in origin and not attributable to alterations in sensory and motor abilities. In addition, the earlier onset of reference memory impairments in females generally coincides with the onset of alterations in the estrous cycle, suggesting that a decline in the estrogenic milieu of the females could be a factor in accelerating the rate of age-related cognitive impairments in the female rat.