Sex dimorphisms in the cognitive-enhancing action of the Alzheimer's drug donepezil in aged Rhesus monkeys

J. J. Buccafusco, W. J. Jackson, J. D. Stone, A. V. Terry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Brain acetylcholinesterase has been targeted for the development of novel treatments for memory deficits associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative disorders. The long-acting AChE inhibitor donepezil (Aricept™) is used to improve memory and other aspects of cognition in AD patients. Because donepezil and other cholinesterase inhibitors are effective in a restricted population of AD patients, this study was to designed to determine whether aged females monkeys receive the same level of benefit to the mnemonic action of donepezil as do males. In this study, six male and six female rhesus monkeys (>20 years) who were proficient in the performance of a delayed matching-to-sample task each received an ascending series of four doses of donepezil (0.01-0.1 mg/kg) over 5 weeks. As a group, male subjects exhibited improvement in task accuracy across the three highest doses, with the maximum effect occurring after the 0.025 mg/kg dose. However, the females exhibited increased task accuracy only after the highest dose. When data were combined for sessions run 10 min after drug administration and for sessions run 24 h later (in the absence of drug), improvements in task accuracy were greater on average for males. Most of this difference was attributed to the fact that task accuracy by females actually declined during sessions run after the two lowest doses of donepezil. When task performance after donepezil was determined as the individualized Best Dose, as a group, males responded maximally to less than half the dose that was maximal for females. These findings support the concept that aged males and females respond differently to this class of agents, perhaps representing fundamental sex-related differences in memory processing, or in the manner that age affects these processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-389
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2003


  • Aging
  • Cholinesterase inhibitor
  • Delayed response task
  • Memory
  • Non-human primate
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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