Sexual hormones and mental health

Lucía Martínez-Mota



Sexual steroids are produced by sexual glands and distributed through the blood stream towards different tissues as the brain. In turn, the brain is a steroidogenic organ (Baulieu, 1991), which increase the chances of these hormones to influence mental functions. Sexual hormones affect physiology and behavior throughout two action types. Organizational actions during developmental crucial stages lead to permanent changes, such as brain sexual differentiation. Afterwards, activational actions are established on a programmed brain leading to transient changes, such as sexual behavior (Feder, 1981). It is no coincident that many psychiatric disorders have their onset in adolescence when sexual hormones are rising and new brain networks are in formation. Sudden or slow decrease of sexual steroids in female and males, respectively, are associated with depressive symptomatology, irritability, and failures in cognition. But, on the other hand, hormones also can protect from damages to the central nervous system, as estrogens do during the women reproductive life.

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