According to a Johns Hopkins University behavioral neuroscientist evidence is mounting that estrogen, should also be thought of as a neurotransmitter when acting in the brain. The study was funded by the National institute of mental health.
In the same direction is an article by Gregory Ball, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the university's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, to be published in the May issue of Trends in Neuroscience. It is with Belgian collaboration.
They studied estradiol (a form of estrogen) in the brains of quail. They suggested that estrogen in its role as a neurotransmitter helps to regulate male sexual activity and the levels at which pain is perceived.
Ball said, "How we categorize estradiol is of more than semantic interest. It influences how scientists conduct research, the kind of experiments we do, and even the way we design clinical interventions that involve actions of estrogen in the brain."
According to Ball, "Quail, especially, are useful for the study of estrogen synthesis because they express a high level of aromatase activity in the brain. This work shows that estradiol has a relatively rapid action on an adjacent cell, but the time course of this action can be fine-tuned by a rapid decrease in the activity of the enzyme that synthesizes the estrogen, thus leading to changes in the amount of estrogen available for action."
He added, "In the past, scientists have always assumed that the action of estrogens on brain function required at least a few hours or days to produce detectable results. For this reason, relatively little attention was paid to responses that might occur more rapidly. The recent demonstration that estrogen production and action can change dramatically within minutes will change our thinking about when we should consider estrogen to be important in regulating behavior and physiology."