Sexually dimorphic aging of dendritic morphology in CA1 of hippocampus

J. A. Markham, K. P. McKian, T. S. Stroup, Janice M. Juraska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During aging, rats of both sexes experience a decline in performance on hippocampal-dependent tasks. Investigations into the neuroanatomical correlates of this functional decline have been conducted almost exclusively in male subjects. In the present study, dendritic spine density in stratum radiatum and complexity of the entire apical dendritic tree were quantified using Golgi-Cox-stained tissue in young (3-5 months) and aged (19-22 months) rats of both sexes. Because both cognitive decline and hippocampal morphology may be influenced by ovarian hormonal state, young adult females were examined during either proestrus or estrus, and aged females were examined in one of two reproductively senescent states: persistent estrus or persistent diestrus. A sex difference in dendritic branching of CA1 pyramidal cells was found among young adults. However, this difference disappeared during aging, due to a reduction in branching with age for males but not for females. Spine density was not influenced by age or sex, nor did ovarian hormone status influence either measure. These results are consistent with our previous findings in the rat medial prefrontal cortex and primary motor cortex and with the human literature, which indicate that age-related atrophy of cognitive brain regions is more severe for males than females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-103
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005


  • Dendritic branching
  • Estropause
  • Sex differences
  • Spine density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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