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Horm Behav. 2008 Sep;54(4):488-95. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.03.001. Epub 2008 Mar 20.

Rapid action on neuroplasticity precedes behavioral activation by testosterone.

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University of Liège, Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, Research Group in Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, Liège, Belgium.


Testosterone has been shown to increase the volume of steroid-sensitive brain nuclei in adulthood in several vertebrate species. In male Japanese quail the volume of the male-biased sexually dimorphic medial preoptic nucleus (POM), a key brain area for the control of male sexual behavior, is markedly increased by testosterone. Previous studies assessed this effect after a period of 8-14 days but the exact time course of these effects is unknown. We asked here whether testosterone-dependent POM plasticity could be observed at shorter latencies. Brains from castrated male quail were collected after 1, 2, 7 and 14 days of T treatment (CX+T) and compared to brains of untreated castrates (CX) collected after 1 or 14 days. POM volumes defined either by Nissl staining or by aromatase immunohistochemistry increased in a time-dependent fashion in CX+T subjects and almost doubled after 14 days of treatment with testosterone while no change was observed in CX birds. A significant increase in the average POM volume was detected after only one day of testosterone treatment. The optical density of Nissl and aromatase staining was also increased after one or two days of testosterone treatment. Activation of male copulatory behavior followed these morphological changes with a latency of approximately one day. This rapid neurochemical and neuroanatomical plasticity observed in the quail POM thus seems to limit the activation of male sexual behavior and offers an excellent model to analyze features of steroid-regulated brain structure and function that determine behavior expression.

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