Rapid Effects of Estradiol on Motivated Behaviors

  • Jill B. Becker
Part of the Research and Perspectives in Endocrine Interactions book series (RPEI)


Estradiol can act extracellularly to rapidly enhance dopamine (DA) activity in striatum and nucleus accumbens (NAcc) as well as the behavioral response to psychomotor stimulants. Considerable research has demonstrated that the effects of estradiol on behavioral and neurochemical indices of DA activity in the striatum are found in female but not male rats. Furthermore, natural variation in circulating hormones modulates this neural system. During naturally occurring behavioral estrus, amphetamine (AMPH)-induced striatal DA release and AMPH-induced behaviors are potentiated relative to other days of the estrous cycle. Ovariectomy (OVX) attenuates, whereas estradiol treatment in OVX rats rapidly enhances, striatal DA release and behaviors that are thought to be mediated by striatal DA activity. Estradiol has similar effects on dopamine activity in the NAcc.

Sex differences in, and hormonal influences on, the ascending DA system have implications for drug abuse. In adult rats, there are sex differences in the rate of behavioral sensitization to cocaine and in the acquisition of cocaine self-administration behavior. These sex differences occur independent of circulating gonadal hormones: OVX females exhibit greater sensitization and more rapid onset of cocaine self-administration than do castrated males. Furthermore, estradiol treatment to OVX females, but not to castrated male rats, enhances both sensitization and acquisition of cocaine self-administration. We postulate that hormonal modulation of this pathway evolved because of its role in the motivation to engage in sexual behavior, since extracellular dopamine increases during sexual behavior in the female rat. A model is proposed to describe the mechanism through which estradiol enhances stimulated DA release.


Nucleus Accumbens Conditioned Place Preference Estrous Cycle Behavioral Sensitization Striatal Neuron 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill B. Becker
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology Department Neuroscience Program and Reproductive Sciences ProgramUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor

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