The form, function, and evolutionary significance of neural aromatization

Front Neuroendocrinol. 2022 Jan:64:100967. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2021.100967. Epub 2021 Nov 19.


Songbirds have emerged as exceptional research subjects for helping us appreciate and understand estrogen synthesis and function in brain. In the context of recognizing the vertebrate-wide importance of brain aromatase expression, in this review we highlight where we believe studies of songbirds have provided clarification and conceptual insight. We follow by focusing on more recent studies of aromatase and neuroestrogen function in the hippocampus and the pallial auditory processing region NCM of songbirds. With perspectives drawn from this body of work, we speculate that the evolution of enhanced neural estrogen signaling, including in the mediation of social behaviors, may have given songbirds the resilience to radiate into one of the most successful vertebrate groups on the planet.

Keywords: Androgen; Aromatase; Auditory; Estrogen; Hippocampus; Learning; Memory; Neurosteroidogenesis; Song system; Steroidogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aromatase / genetics
  • Aromatase / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Songbirds* / metabolism
  • Vocalization, Animal*


  • Estrogens
  • Aromatase