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During maze navigation rats can rely on hippocampus-mediated place memory or striatum-mediated response memory. Ovarian hormones bias whether females use place or response memory to reach a reward. Here, we investigated the impact of the contraceptive hormones, ethinyl estradiol (EE) and levonorgestrel (LNG), on memory bias. A total of 63 gonadally-intact female rats were treated with either 10 μg/kg of EE alone, 20 μg/kg of LNG alone, both 10 μg/kg of EE and 20 μg/kg of LNG together, or a sesame oil injection with 5% ethanol as a vehicle control. Rats in the control condition were tested during the diestrus phase of the estrous cycle in order to control for the low circulating levels of gonadotropin and ovarian hormones that occur with oral contraceptive administration. Rats treated with LNG alone had a bias towards the use of place memory compared to diestrus phase control rats. This bias was not observed if LNG was administered in combination with EE. Rats treated with EE or EE+LNG did not have a statistically significant difference in memory bias compared to rats in the control group. These data show that synthetic hormones contained in oral contraceptives administered to females influence which cognitive strategy is predominantly used during navigation. Copyright © 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Jesse M Lacasse, Vanessa Boulos, Caleigh Fisher, Sarran Hamilton, Megan Heron, Conall E Mac Cionnaith, Vanessa Peronace, Noémie Tito, Wayne G Brake. Combined effects of the contraceptive hormones, ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel, on the use of place and response memory in gonadally-intact female rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2023 Jan;147:105974

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PMID: 36403510

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