Neuroendocrine involvement in aging: Evidence from studies of reproductive aging and caloric restriction

James F. Nelson, Katarzyna Karelus, Mark D. Bergman, Lêda S. Felicio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Neuroendocrine changes contribute to female reproductive aging, but changes in other tissues also play a role. In C57BL/6J mice, neuroendocrine changes contribute to estrous cycle lengthening and reduced plasma estradiol levels, but the midlife loss of cyclicity is mainly due to ovarian failure. Hypothalamic estrogen receptor dynamics and estrogenic modulation of gene expression are altered in middle-aged cycling mice. Although insufficient to arrest cyclicity, these neuroendocrine changes may contribute to other reproductive aging phenomena, such as altered gonadotropin secretion and lengthened estrous cycles. In women, the loss of ovarian oocytes, the cause of menopause, accelerates in the decade before menopause. Accelerated oocyte loss may in turn be caused by a selective elevation of plasma follicle stimulating hormone, and neuroendocrine involvement may thus be implicated in menopausal oocyte loss. Chronic calorie restriction retards both neural and ovarian reproductive aging processes, as well as age-related change in many other physiological systems. The diverse effects of food restriction raises the possibility of an underlying coordinated regulatory response of the organism to reduced caloric intake, possibly effected through alterations of neural and/or endocrine signalling. We are therefore attempting to identify neuroendocrine changes that may coordinate the life prolonging response of animals to food restriction. Our initial focus is on the glucocorticoid system. Food restricted rats exhibit daily periods of hyper-adrenocorticism, manifest as elevated free corticosterone during the diurnal peak. We hypothesize that this hyperadrenocortical state potentiates cellular and organismic homeostasis throughout life in a manner similar to that achieved during acute stress, thereby retarding aging processes and extending life span.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-843
Number of pages7
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1995


  • Estrogen
  • Estrogen receptor
  • Estrous cycles
  • Female
  • Food restriction
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Menopause
  • Oocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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