Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
In the last ten years, numerous mechanisms by which sex steroids modify cortical function have been described. For example, estrogen replacement improves verbal memory in women, and animal studies have shown effects of estrogen on hippocampal synaptogenesis and function. Little is known about sex steroid effects on other aspects of memory, such as frontal lobe-mediated working memory. We examined the relationships between working memory and sex steroid concentrations and whether sex steroid supplementation would modify age-related loss of working memory in older men and women. Before hormone supplementation, working memory, tested with the Subject Ordered Pointing Test (SOP), was worse in older subjects than younger subjects, and there was no evidence of gender differences at either age. Testosterone supplementation improved working memory in older men, but a similar enhancement of working memory was not found in older women supplemented with estrogen. In men, testosterone and estrogen effects were reciprocal—with better working memory related to a higher testosterone to estrogen ratio. These results suggest that sex steroids can modulate working memory in men and can act as modulators of cognition throughout life.