Dehydroepiandosterone and its sulphate enhance memory retention in day-old chicks
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We report the presence of dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA) and DHEA sulphate (DHEA-S) in the day-old-chick brain, and their possible role in memory formation. DHEA and DHEA-S were present in the brain at higher concentrations than in the plasma. Radioimmunoassay examination of the intermediate medial hyperstriatum ventrale 5 or 30 min after training or the lobus parolfactorius 60 or 120 min after training on the passive avoidance task did not show learning-related differences in absolute levels of DHEA or DHEA-S. However, bilateral intracerebral injections of DHEA or DHEA-S before or after training on the weak passive avoidance task enhanced recall 24 h after training. Memory retention was enhanced by administration of DHEA and DHEA-S 15 min before training or 30 and 60 but not 180 min after training. Neurosteroids are present in high concentrations in regions of the chick brain known to be associated with learning and memory for an aversive one-trial task. Our study demonstrates that memory retention for this task is enhanced by administration of the neurosteroids DHEA-S and DHEA. These findings provide additional evidence that these neurosteroids have memory-enhancing properties and, thus, if common to other tasks and species, that DHEA-S and DHEA may constitute potential therapeutic tools for the treatment of cognitive deficits.