How Estrogen Works in the Brain

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Estrogen has the following effects that individually or together may be responsible for its promemory actions:

1. Promotes the growth and survival of cholinergic nerve cells in the brain, probably by stimulating a substance called nerve growth factor.

2. May reduce destructive amyloid formation that occurs to a small extent during normal aging and to a precipitous degree in Alzheimer's disease.

3. May diminish the inflammatory response in the brain. Abnormal immune reactions are believed to underlie many brain disorders and may contribute to age-related memory loss.

4. Helps to maintain synapses, which are the small gaps between nerve cells bridged by chemical neurotransmitters. This action may prolong the integrity and life of synapses that normally decay during the aging process.

5. Has moderate antioxidant properties.

6. Raising estrogen levels in mice improves performance on memory tasks such as remembering how to traverse a maze.

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