The organizational hypothesis and final common pathways: Sexual differentiation of the spinal cord and peripheral nervous system

Horm Behav. 2009 May;55(5):605-10. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2009.03.008.


In honor of the 50th anniversary of the "organizational hypothesis," this paper reviews work on sexual differentiation of the spinal cord and peripheral nervous system. Topics considered include the spinal nucleus of the bulbocavernosus, the ejaculation center, the cremaster nucleus, sensory and autonomic neurons, and pain. These relatively simple neural systems offer ample confirmation that early exposure to testicular hormones masculinizes the nervous system, including final common pathways. However, I also discuss findings that challenge, or at least stretch, the organizational hypothesis, with important implications for understanding sex differences throughout the nervous system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / anatomy & histology
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology*
  • Sex Differentiation / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones