According to The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), estrogen has a significant role in overall brain health and cognitive function.
Some of estrogen’s effects in the brain include:
- Increasing serotonin, and the number of serotonin receptors in the brain
- Changing how endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, are made and work
- Protecting nerves from damage, and possibly stimulating nerve growth
Estradiol and the Brain:
Estradiol is the most potent and most abundant estrogen in females and is the principal growth hormone required for their reproductive development. In males, a small amount of estradiol is produced in the testes and helps sperm to mature, as well as maintaining a healthy libido.
- The developing brain expresses high levels of estradiol receptors (nuclear transcription factors), which regulate gene expression as well as acting at the membrane level to stimulate signalling pathways.
- In the nervous system, this hormone has important effects on a range of brain areas involved in functions such as fine motor control, learning, memory, sensitivity to pain and motor coordination, as well protecting against stroke damage and Alzheimer’s disease.
Some of the effects of estradiol on brain function are described below.
- Research has shown that estrogen plays a role in depressive illness, demonstrating antidepressant effects in humans and influencing responses to antidepressant medication in animals.
- Verbal memory, spatial ability and fine motor skills are all influenced by estrogens and the strategies used to solve spatial or navigational puzzles differ between males and females.