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Hormones Influence Our Attention

Hormones Influence Attention to Task A new study using an animal model suggests high estrogen levels are associated with an inability to pay attention and learn.

Concordia University researchers report how this impediment can be due to a direct effect of the hormone on mature brain structures.

“Although estrogen is known to play a significant role in learning and memory, there has been no clear consensus on its effect,” says senior author Wayne Brake.

“Our findings, using a well-established model of learning called latent inhibition, shows conclusively that high estrogen levels inhibit the cognitive ability in female rodents.”

Human females have high estrogen levels while they are ovulating. These high levels have also been shown to interfere with women’s ability to pay attention.

“The similarity between human studies and our findings suggest that we have a good model for human learning,” says first author Matthew Quinlan.

“Rodent research is invaluable to us. We can tease out the real contributors and their respective roles in these systems. It is much more difficult to conduct comparable experiments in humans.”

Latent inhibition is observed in many species and is believed to be the important part of learning, which enables individuals to interact successfully in their environment.

It is a test of new memory formation.

In the Brake protocol, rats received a pre-exposure phase during which they were repeatedly exposed to a tone, with no consequence.

Once they became used to this tone and ignored it, the test dynamics changed and another stimulus was linked to the tone.

Rats with low levels of estrogen quickly learned that the tone was associated with the new stimulus whereas those with higher levels of estrogen took longer to form this memory.

“We only observed this effect in adult female rats,” says Brake.

“This and our other findings indicate that estrogen directly effects the brain, perhaps by interfering with brain signaling molecules.

“Our study helps clear up the controversy about the effects of estrogen, the next step is to look at how this occurs.”

The report is found in the journal Brain and Cognition.

Source: Concordia University

Hormones Influence Our Attention

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Hormones Influence Our Attention. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/09/27/hormones-influence-our-attention/18785.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.