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Sex Hormones,

the brain
and behavior
M.Prasad Naidu
MSc Medical Biochemistry, Ph.D,.

Definitions of Sex
Genetic
Gonadal
Hormonal
Morphological
Behavioral (gender role behavior)
Identity
Effects of Sex
Hormones
Organizational Effects
structural
sensitive period
irreversible
masculinization/defeminization

Activational Effects
act on existing structure
no sensitive period
reversible

testes differentiate ovaries differentiate
Sexual Dimorphisms
Phenotypic differences
between males and females
They can be:
anatomical
physiological
behavioral
cognitive
They can be:
qualitative
quantitiave
Hypothalamus
Adenohypophysis
Testes or Ovaries
Target tissues
Indirect
Loop
Short
Loop
Direct
Loop
GnRH
LH, FSH
Testosterone
or Estrogen &
Progesterone
neural inputs
Bipotential tissues: Undifferentiated tissue
that can differentiate into either a male or
female form.
Sexual Dimophisms: Structures, functions
or behaviors that differ qualitatively or
quantitatively between the sexes.
Castrate male hamster at birth
Prototypical Experiment
(Males)
(before period of brain differentiation)
Test in adulthood
place with receptive female
inject with testosterone
male typical behavior low
mounting, intromission
(ejaculation not possible)
female-typical behavior high
darting, ear-wiggling, lordosis
place with male
inject with estrogen and progesterone
Neuter female hamster at birth and
inject with testosterone
Prototypical Experiment
(Females)
(before period of brain differentiation)
Test in adulthood
place with receptive female
inject with testosterone
male typical behavior high
(mounting)
female-typical behavior low
(ear-wiggling, darting, lordosis)
place with male
inject with estrogen and progesterone
Differentiation of the Brain
Masculinization
Induction of male characteristics
Defeminization
Suppression of female characteristics
Two processes
both are dependent on fetal androgens
Why arent all females
masculinized?
-fetoprotein
binds to estradiol extracellulary
and prevents entry into cell
Kelley, D.B. (1988) Ann. Rev. Neurosci.,
11, 225-251.
Ripple effects in brain sexual dimorphisms

Steroid Hormones
cholesterol
Hypothalamus
Adenohypophysis
Testes or Ovaries
Target tissues
Indirect
Loop
Short
Loop
Direct
Loop
GnRH
LH, FSH
Testosterone
or Estrogen &
Progesterone
neural inputs
Hypothalamus
Adenohypophysis
Adrenal Cortex
Target tissues
Indirect
Loop
Short
Loop
Direct
Loop
CRF
(aka CRH)
Corticotrophin
(aka ACTH)
Cortisol or
Corticosterone
neural inputs
(limbic system)

This is usually referred to as the HPA axis,
but is now often called the LHPA axis.
estradiol
aromatase
5-alpha
reductase
cholesterol
DHT
Suppose there is a deficiency of either
21-hydroxylase or 11- hydroxylase.
cholesterol
estrodiol DHT
aromatase
5-alpha
reductase
cholesterol
Sex differences in cognition
Studies of mathematically gifted
Effects of brain damage
Anatomical studies of brain laterality
Functional (fMRI) studies of brain laterality


Brain Laterality
Left
Positive
Right
Positive
Females Males
Totals
Totals
15/111
(9%)
16/103
(16%)
100/246
(41%)
120/276
(43%)
115/357
(32%)
136/379
(36%)
31/214 220/522
(14%) (42%)
Geshwinds Theory
of
Cerebral Lateralization
Geschwind, N. & Galaburda, A.S. (1987)
Cerebral lateralization. Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press

McManus, I.C. & Bryden, M.P. (1991) Geschwinds theory of cerebral lateralization:
Developing a formal, causal model. Psych. Bull., 110, 237-253.
Hypothalamus
Adenohypophysis
Testes or Ovaries
Target tissues
Indirect
Loop
Short
Loop
Direct
Loop
GnRH
LH, FSH
Testosterone
or Estrogen &
Progesterone
neural inputs
perform well on verbal and motor tasks
poorly on spatial tasks
perform well on spatial tasks,
poorly on motor and verbal tasks
Activational Effects of Sex
Hormones on Cognition
Possible activational effects
of sex hormones on cognition
de Lacoste-Utamsing, C. & Holloway, R.L. (1982)
Sexual dimorphism in the human corpus callosum.
Science, 216, 1431-1432.
Splenium
Gladue, Green
& Hellman (1983)
Science, 225,
1496-1499.
Gladue, Green & Hellman (1983) Science, 225, 1496-1499.
LeVay, S. (1991) Science, 253, 1034-1037
Size related to sexual identity
not sexual orientation