Objective: There are significant individual differences in the extent to which mood and cognition change as a function of reproductive stage, menstrual phase, postpartum, and hormone therapy use. This review explores the extent to which variations or polymorphisms in the estrogen receptor α gene (ESR1) predict cognitive and mood outcomes.
Methods: A literature search was conducted from 1995 to November 2009 through PubMed, Embase, and PsychINFO. Twenty-five manuscripts that summarize investigations of ESR1 in mental health were reviewed.
Results: Among studies investigating ESR1 in relation to cognition, 11 of 14 case-control studies reported an association between ESR1 polymorphisms and risk for developing dementia. Three of four prospective cohort studies reported an association between ESR1 polymorphisms and significant cognitive decline. There are inconsistencies between case-control and cohort studies regarding whether specific ESR1 alleles increase or decrease the risk for cognitive dysfunction. The relationships between ESR1 and cognitive impairment tend to be specific to or driven by women and restricted to risk for Alzheimer disease rather than other dementia causes. Three of five studies examining ESR1 polymorphisms in relation to anxiety or depressive symptoms found significant associations. Significant associations have also been reported between ESR1 polymorphisms and childhood-onset mood disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Conclusions: A strong relationship between ESR1 variants and cognitive outcomes is evident, and preliminary evidence suggests a role of the ESR1 gene in certain mood outcomes. Insights into the discordant results will come from future studies that include haplotype analyses, analyses within specific ethnic/racial populations, and sex-stratified analyses.