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Keywords:

  • Neuroendocrinology;
  • Estrogen;
  • Progesterone;
  • Allopregnanolone;
  • Catamenial epilepsy;
  • Menstrual cycle;
  • Estrous cycle;
  • Estradiol;
  • Progestin;
  • Ovulation;
  • Progesterone withdrawal;
  • Area CA1;
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF);
  • Neuropeptide Y (NPY);
  • Osmolarity;
  • Tonic inhibition

Summary:  It is clear from both clinical observations of women, and research in laboratory animals, that gonadal hormones exert a profound influence on neuronal excitability, seizures, and epilepsy. These studies have led to a focus on two of the primary ovarian steroid hormones, estrogen and progesterone, to clarify how gonadal hormones influence seizures in women with epilepsy. The prevailing view is that estrogen is proconvulsant, whereas progesterone is anticonvulsant. However, estrogen and progesterone may not be the only reproductive hormones to consider in evaluating excitability, seizures, or epilepsy in the female. It seems unlikely that estrogen and progesterone would exert single, uniform actions given our current understanding of their complex pharmacological and physiological relationships. Their modulatory effects are likely to depend on endocrine state, relative concentration, metabolism, and many other factors. Despite the challenges these issues raise to future research, some recent advances have helped clarify past confusion in the literature. In addition, testable hypotheses have developed for complex clinical problems such as “catamenial epilepsy.” Clinical and animal research, designed with the relevant endocrinological and neurobiological issues in mind, will help advance this field in the future.