Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: Effects on neuroendocrine systems and the neurobiology of social behavior

Horm Behav. 2019 May;111:7-22. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2018.11.006. Epub 2018 Dec 4.


A contribution to SBN/ICN special issue. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are pervasive in the environment. They are found in plastics and plasticizers (bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates), in industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and include some pesticides and fungicides such as vinclozolin. These chemicals act on hormone receptors and their downstream signaling pathways, and can interfere with hormone synthesis, metabolism, and actions. Because the developing brain is particularly sensitive to endogenous hormones, disruptions by EDCs can change neural circuits that form during periods of brain organization. Here, we review the evidence that EDCs affect developing hypothalamic neuroendocrine systems, and change behavioral outcomes in juvenile, adolescent, and adult life in exposed individuals, and even in their descendants. Our focus is on social, communicative and sociosexual behaviors, as how an individual behaves with a same- or opposite-sex conspecific determines that individual's ability to exist in a community, be selected as a mate, and reproduce successfully.

Keywords: Aroclor 1221; BPA; Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs); Gene expression; Hypothalamus; Phthalate; Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); Sex difference; Social behavior; Sociosexual behavior; Transgenerational; Ultrasonic vocalization; Vinclozolin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Endocrine Disruptors / pharmacology*
  • Environmental Pollutants / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena / drug effects
  • Neurosecretory Systems / drug effects*
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Social Behavior*


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants