Treatment with 17-β estradiol and progesterone improves the performance of ovariectomized rats in an autoshaping learning task, representing cognitive improvement. To test whether this is attributable to genomic mechanisms, the antiestrogen ICI 182 780 or antiprogesterone RU486 was injected into ovariectomized animals primed previously with estrogen or progesterone, respectively. Compared with the vehicle control, each hormone administered alone produced an elevated expression of choline acetyltransferase and TrkA, along with an improvement in performance on the behavioral test. E2+ICI reverted the increase in these two proteins. However, RU alone elicited higher ChAT expression. With this exception, there was a clear linear regression between the number of conditioned responses and the level of ChAT and TrkA in the basal forebrain. The results suggest that TrkA may be more important than ChAT for regulating autoshaping learning tasks, and that genomic mechanisms in the basal forebrain could possibly underlie hormonal improvement of cognition.