Steroid hormone receptors in the brain were thought to be only activated by steroid hormones. Once steroid binds to the receptor, it would act on DNA to regulate gene transcription. Recent data indicate that steroid receptor action is more complex. Steroid receptor activity in the brain is under the control of co-regulatory proteins, such as coactivators. It is the expression of these additional proteins that modulate the activity of steroid receptors. Furthermore, steroid receptors are not only activated by steroid, but can also be activated by neurotransmitters in the absence of steroid. For example, progestin receptors in rodent brain are sensitive to progesterone and to social cues in the environment. This review discusses these emerging mechanisms for steroid receptor control in developing and adult brain.