The dual action of estrogen hypothesis

Trends Neurosci. 2015 Jul;38(7):408-16. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2015.05.004. Epub 2015 Jun 15.


Estradiol (E2) can act in the brain in a relatively fast manner (i.e., seconds to minutes) usually through signaling initiated at the cell membrane. Brain-derived E2 has thus been considered as another type of neurotransmitter. Recent work found that behaviors indicative of male sexual motivation are activated by estrogenic metabolites of testosterone (T) in a fast manner, while sexual performance (copulatory behavior per se) is regulated by brain E2 in a slower manner via nucleus-initiated actions. This functional division between these two types of action appears to generalize to other behavioral systems regulated by E2. We propose the dual action of estrogen hypothesis to explain this functional distinction between these two different modes of action.

Keywords: appetitive behavior; consummatory behavior; estrogen; membrane-initiated action; motivation; nuclear action; performance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estrogens / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Motivation / drug effects
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sexual Behavior / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology


  • Estrogens