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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1999 Dec;64(4):803-12.

Gender differences in dopaminergic function in striatum and nucleus accumbens.

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  • Psychology Department, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109, USA.


In female rats the gonadal hormones estrogen and progesterone modulate dopamine (DA) activity in the striatum and nucleus accumbens. For example, there is estrous cycle-dependent variation in basal extracellular concentration of striatal DA, in amphetamine (AMPH)-stimulated DA release, and in striatal DA-mediated behaviors. Ovariectomy attenuates basal extracellular DA, AMPH-induced striatal DA release, and behaviors mediated by the striatal DA system. Estrogen rapidly and directly acts on the striatum and accumbens, via a G-protein-coupled external membrane receptor, to enhance DA release and DA-mediated behaviors. In male rats, estrogen does not affect striatal DA release, and removal of testicular hormones is without effect. These effects of estrogen also result in gender differences in sensitization to psychomotor stimulants. The effects of the gonadal hormones on the striatum and ascending DA systems projecting to the striatum and nucleus accumbens are hypothesized to occur as follows: estrogen induces a rapid change in neuronal excitability by acting on membrane receptors located in intrinsic striatal GABAergic neurons and on DA terminals. The effect of these two actions results in enhanced stimulated DA release through modulation of terminal excitability. These effects of gonadal hormones are postulated to have important implications for gender differences in susceptibility to addiction to the psychomotor stimulants. It is suggested that hormonal modulation of the striatum may have evolved to facilitate reproductive success in female rats by enhancing pacing behavior.

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