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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2002 May;26(3):381-91.

Puberty and the maturation of the male brain and sexual behavior: recasting a behavioral potential.

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Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


The pubertal transition from the juvenile to adult state requires significant changes in behavior to meet the demands for success and survival in adulthood. These behavioral changes during puberty must be mediated by changes in the structure and/or function of the central nervous system. Despite the profound consequences of puberty on an animal's behavioral repertoire, the mechanisms underlying pubertal maturation of the nervous system remain largely unknown. In this review, we provide a synthesis of neural development during puberty as it relates to maturation of male reproductive behavior. We first outline neuroendocrine events associated with puberty and review work from our laboratory that identifies pubertal changes in the neural substrate controlling male reproduction by comparing the neural responses of prepubertal and adult males to steroids and female chemosensory cues. We then raise the question of whether puberty is a sensitive period in which gonadal hormones influence the structural and functional organization of neural circuits underlying male reproductive behavior. The central thesis of this review is that the development of the nervous system during puberty alters the way in which the male responds to social stimuli, involving the restructuring of neural circuits that integrate steroidal and sensory information and ultimately mediate steroid-dependent social behaviors in adulthood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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