Andrea Sotirakopoulos, BSc
Gonadal steroids have wide and complex roles that reach beyond the regulation of gonadotrophin and prolactin secretion and the modulation of sexual behavior.1 These hormones have several clinical effects on brain function throughout the life span, beginning during gestation and continuing into senescence. Estrogen is a female steroid hormone that is produced in the ovary and circulates in the blood stream. The specific proteins that bind to estrogen are distributed throughout the limbic brain, forebrain, hypothalamus, midbrain and anterior pituitary, and in organs such as the ovary and uterus. The widespread hormonal influence of estrogen on brain function could prove to be an important tool in the fight against Alzheimer's Disease (AD).
AD is characterized by neuropathologic features such as the accumulation of neurofibrillary tangles, neuritic plaques and amyloid deposits within regions of the cerebrum and brainstem2 and by the progressive decline of mental function affecting long-term memory and other cognitive domains.3 A close relationship between neurofibrillary tangles and cell death exists within the brains of patients with AD. In the cholinergic basal forebrain and the hippocampus, these tangles are found inside neurons of cell groups that are progressively depopulated.