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Steroid-induced hippocampal synaptic plasticity: sex differences and similarities

  • RUSSELL D. ROMEO (a1), ELIZABETH M. WATERS (a1) and BRUCE S. MCEWEN (a1)
Abstract

Early in development, steroid hormones structurally organize various regions of the CNS. However, steroid hormones continue to affect the structure and function of the CNS throughout the life of the individual. In this review, we discuss sex differences and similarities in steroid-induced synaptic plasticity in the adult brain. Particular emphasis is placed on steroid-induced plasticity in the hippocampus, a brain region important in learning and memory. This topic is relevant to the growing evidence for the actions of sex hormones outside of the reproductive neuroendocrine axis. It also tells an important and emerging story about non-genomic and genomic actions of steroids at the cellular and molecular levels. Specifically, the effects of estrogen and progesterone as well as the androgens and glucocorticoids are discussed. The influence of steroids on hippocampal structure and function can differ vastly between the sexes. However, there are certain similarities that might aid in our understanding of how steroids affect CNS plasticity in general. Although future studies will undoubtedly lead us to a greater understanding of these phenomena, the data reviewed indicate that when studying synaptic plasticity, the sex and hormonal milieu of the individual might significantly influence the outcome and interpretation of the research.

Early in development, steroid hormones structurally organize various regions of the CNS. However, steroid hormones continue to affect the structure and function of the CNS throughout the life of the individual. In this review, we discuss sex differences and similarities in steroid-induced synaptic plasticity in the adult brain. Particular emphasis is placed on steroid-induced plasticity in the hippocampus, a brain region important in learning and memory. This topic is relevant to the growing evidence for the actions of sex hormones outside of the reproductive neuroendocrine axis. It also tells an important and emerging story about non-genomic and genomic actions of steroids at the cellular and molecular levels. Specifically, the effects of estrogen and progesterone as well as the androgens and glucocorticoids are discussed. The influence of steroids on hippocampal structure and function can differ vastly between the sexes. However, there are certain similarities that might aid in our understanding of how steroids affect CNS plasticity in general. Although future studies will undoubtedly lead us to a greater understanding of these phenomena, the data reviewed indicate that when studying synaptic plasticity, the sex and hormonal milieu of the individual might significantly influence the outcome and interpretation of the research.

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Corresponding author
Russell D. Romeo, Ph.D, Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology, The Rockefeller University, Box 165, New York, NY 10021, USA. phone: +1 212 327 8623; fax: +1 212 327 8634. email: romeor@rockefeller.edu
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Neuron Glia Biology
  • ISSN: 1740-925X
  • EISSN: 1741-0533
  • URL: /core/journals/neuron-glia-biology
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