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Women have a higher risk of developing stress-related disorders compared to men and the experience of a stressful life event is a potent risk-factor. The rodent literature suggests that chronic exposure to stressors as well as 17β-estradiol (E2) can result in alterations in neuronal structure in corticolimbic brain regions, however the translation of these data to humans is limited by the nature of the stressor experienced and issues of brain homology. To address these limitations, we used a well-validated rhesus monkey model of social subordination to examine effects of E2 treatment on subordinate (high stress) and dominant (low stress) female brain structure, including regional gray matter and white matter volumes using structural magnetic resonance imaging. Our results show that one month of E2 treatment in ovariectomized females, compared to control (no) treatment, decreased frontal cortex gray matter volume regardless of social status. In contrast, in the cingulate cortex, an area associated with stress-induced emotional processing, E2 decreased grey matter volume in subordinates but increased it in dominant females. Together these data suggest that physiologically relevant levels of E2 alter cortical gray matter volumes in females after only one month of treatment and interact with chronic social stress to modulate these effects on brain structure. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


Katherine M Reding, Martin M Styner, Mark E Wilson, Donna Toufexis, Mar M Sanchez. Social subordination alters estradiol-induced changes in cortico-limbic brain volumes in adult female rhesus monkeys. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2020 Apr;114:104592

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PMID: 32023501

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