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Steroid Hormones and the Action in Women’s Brain [Frontiers in Public Health]

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Author: Alliende I., Serrano F.G., Molina N., Del Río J.P., and Vigil P. (2017)



Sex hormones act on steroid receptors all through the body including the nervous system at the synaptic level at which they exert their action through membrane receptors. They are produced in peripheral endocrine organs and additionally by glia and neurons in different brain areas. In this way, estrogen, progesterone and their metabolites play a role in the organization and activation of the central neural system. This role is carried out through the regulation of different neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate. In general, estrogens enhance serotonin and dopamine neurotransmission and progesterone interacts directly through GABA receptors, all of which has been related to affective disorders, mood changes and behavior. In the present review, we analyze how hormonal fluctuations that occur during women’s life, the menstrual cycle and during certain pathological conditions (related to hormonal imbalances) influence changes in behavior, mood and mental disorders such as depression. Therefore, this review emphasizes the importance of having a hormonal balance during different life stages in order to improve mental health conditions. For this, monitoring hormonal levels according to a woman’s age and ovulatory status are essential for a correct diagnosis and treatment of behavioral and /or mood disorders. The knowledge of the action of steroid hormones in the brain will give women and health providers and important tool for improving their health and wellbeing from menarche until menopause.


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