Clinical research suggests that type of ovarian hormone loss at menopause influences cognition. Until recently ovariectomy (OVX) has been the primary rodent model to examine effects of ovarian hormone loss on cognition. This model limits evaluations to abrupt and complete ovarian hormone loss, modeling less than 13% of women who receive surgical menopause. The majority of women do not have their ovaries surgically removed and undergo transitional hormone loss via ovarian follicular depletion. 4-Vinylcyclohexene-diepoxide (VCD) produces gradual ovarian follicular depletion in the rodent, with hormone profiles more similar to naturally menopausal women vs. OVX. We directly compared VCD and OVX models to examine whether type of hormone loss (transitional vs. surgical) impacted cognition as assessed on a maze battery as well as the cholinergic system tested via scopolamine mnemonic challenge and brain acetylcholinesterase activity. Middle-aged rats received either sham surgery, OVX surgery, VCD, or VCD then OVX to assess effects of removal of residual ovarian output after transitional menopause and follicular depletion. VCD-induced transitional menopause impaired learning of a spatial recent memory task; surgical removal of residual ovarian hormones by OVX abolished this negative effect of transitional menopause. Furthermore, transitional menopause before OVX was better for memory than an abrupt loss of hormones via OVX only. Surgical ovarian hormone loss, regardless of menopause history, increased hippocampal acetylcholinesterase activity. Circulating gonadotropin and androstenedione levels were related to cognitive competence. Collectively, findings suggest that in the rat, initiation of transitional menopause before surgical ovary removal can benefit mnemonic function and could obviate some negative cognitive consequences of surgical menopause alone.
ASJC Scopus subject areas