Chronic fluoxetine suppresses circulating estrogen and the enhanced spatial learning of estrogen-treated ovariectomized rats
We are interested in developing animal models to evaluate cognitive processes as influenced by the interplay of steroidal hormones and drugs commonly used in psychotherapy. Two experiments with female rats were conducted to evaluate the interaction of estrogen with the serotonin specific reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine on spatial learning and memory and on the endocrine system. In experiment 1, estrogen (50 microg estradiol benzoate/kg body weight) was administered SC to young adult, ovariectomized (OVX) rats either alone or in combination with fluoxetine (2 mg/kg SC). After a month, the groups were compared with appropriate OVX and gonadally intact controls on trials to criterion in a hole board spatial memory task using massed training trials. Experiment 2 was a dose-response study of the influence of fluoxetine (0.5-5 mg/kg) on circulating estrogen in OVX, estrogen treated females. Results were that the OVX females administered estrogen only reached the learning criterion significantly faster than the other groups. All other groups, including the estrogen + fluoxetine animals, performed no better than the controls. Combining fluoxetine with estrogen also lowered circulating estrogen titers, with the least estrogen reductions being in the group receiving the highest dosage of fluoxetine. No differences among groups were found on measures of activity in an open field or for anxiety in a plus maze. Conclusions were that administration of estrogen improved spatial learning and memory in OVX rats, whereas concurrent fluoxetine exposure suppressed the levels of estrogen in circulation and eliminated the gains in spatial performance obtained from chronic estrogen exposure.
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