Converging evidence from cellular, electrophysiological, anatomic, and behavioral studies suggests that the remodeling of synapse structure and function is a critical component of cognition. This modulation of neuroplasticity can be achieved through the actions of numerous extracellular signals. Moreover, it is thought that it is the integration of different extracellular signals regulation of neuroplasticity that greatly influences cognitive function. One group of signals that exerts powerful effects on multiple neurologic processes is estrogens. Classically, estrogens have been described to exert their effects over a period of hours to days.However, there is nowincreasing evidence that estrogens can rapidly influence multiple behaviors, including those that require forebrain neural circuitry. Moreover, these effects are found in both sexes. Critically, it is nowemerging that the modulation of cognition by rapid estrogenic signaling is achieved by activation of specific signaling cascades and regulation of synapse structure and function, cumulating in the rewiring of neural circuits. The importance of understanding the rapid effects of estrogens on forebrain function and circuitry is further emphasized as investigations continue to consider the potential of estrogenic-based therapies for neuropathologies. This review focuses on how estrogens can rapidly influence cognition and the emerging mechanisms that underlie these effects. We discuss the potential sources and the biosynthesis of estrogens within the brain and the consequences of rapid estrogenic-signaling on the remodeling of neural circuits. Furthermore, we argue that estrogens act via distinct signaling pathways tomodulate synapse structure and function in a manner that may vary with cell type, developmental stage, and sex. Finally, we present a model in which the coordination of rapid estrogenic-signaling and activity-dependent stimuli can result in long-lasting changes in neural circuits, contributing to cognition, with potential relevance for the development of novel estrogenic-based therapies for neurodevelopmental or neurodegenerative disorders.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine