Sex Differences in Neuroplasticity
In a concomitant study, using electron microscopic stereological calculation, Woolley and McEwen (Woolley & McEwen, 1992) have demonstrated that, even during the ovarian cycle there is a fluctuation in the density of spine synapses in the stratum radiatum of the CA1 hippocampal subfield. Recent studies have also demonstrated that administration of male hormones to both gonadectomized male and female animals has the same synaptoplastic effects in the hippocampus as estrogen in females. However, there are major sex differences in the effectiveness and mechanisms of actions of the gonadal hormones, between males and females. This chapter reviews these differences to indicate where areas of uncertainty still remain, and suggests possible future avenues of research to explore the underlying mechanisms and potential neurological significance of these morphological responses to gonadal steroid exposure. Because the majority of the work in this field to date has focused on the CA1 area of the hippocampus, the chapter also focuses on sex differences in CA1 responses to androgen and estrogen.
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