Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Dr. Elizabeth Hampson


Working memory (WM) is a dynamic brain system which allows for the on-line moment-to-moment maintenance, processing and monitoring of information involved in human cognition. Behavioural and neuroimaging studies have shown that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays an essential role in WM. Data suggest the PFC may be susceptible to modulation by estrogen. Behavioural studies examining whether PFC-dependent WM tasks exhibit estrogen sensitivity in postmenopausal women have shown a benefit of estrogen. The present study used hormone changes associated with the menstrual cycle to examine whether estrogen has a beneficial effect on WM function in reproductively aged women. Thirty-six women completed a battery of cognitive tasks including 3 WM tests in a repeated-measures design. The data showed that performance on the WM tasks was significantly better when estrogen levels were high compared to when they were low, suggesting that estrogen has the ability to modulate PFC-dependent WM function in young women.