The neurosteroid allopregnanolone impairs object memory and contextual fear memory in male C57BL/6J mice

Akiva Rabinowitz, Sarah J. Cohen, Deborah A. Finn, Robert W. Stackman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Allopregnanolone (ALLO, or 3α-hydroxy-5α-pregnan-20-one) is a steroid metabolite of progesterone and a potent endogenous positive allosteric modulator of GABA-A receptors. Systemic ALLO has been reported to impair spatial, but not nonspatial learning in the Morris water maze (MWM) and contextual memory in rodents. These cognitive effects suggest an influence of ALLO on hippocampal-dependent memory, although the specific nature of the neurosteroid's effects on learning, memory or performance is unclear. The present studies aimed to determine: (i) the memory process(es) affected by systemic ALLO using a nonspatial object memory task; and (ii) whether ALLO affects object memory via an influence within the dorsal hippocampus. Male C57BL/6J mice received systemic ALLO either before or immediately after the sample session of a novel object recognition (NOR) task. Results demonstrated that systemic ALLO impaired the encoding and consolidation of object memory. A subsequent study revealed that bilateral microinfusion of ALLO into the CA1 region of dorsal hippocampus immediately following the NOR sample session also impaired object memory consolidation. In light of debate over the hippocampal-dependence of object recognition memory, we also tested systemic ALLO-treated mice on a contextual and cued fear-conditioning task. Systemic ALLO impaired the encoding of contextual memory when administered prior to the context pre-exposure session. Together, these results indicate that ALLO exhibits primary effects on memory encoding and consolidation, and extend previous findings by demonstrating a sensitivity of nonspatial memory to ALLO, likely by disrupting dorsal hippocampal function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-246
Number of pages9
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Context
  • Fear conditioning
  • Hippocampus
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Neurosteroid
  • Novelty
  • Object recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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