Interrelationships between Hormones, Behavior, and Affect during Adolescence: Understanding Hormonal, Physical, and Brain Changes Occurring in Association with Pubertal Activation of the Reproductive Axis. Introduction to Part III



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    1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA, The Oregon National Primate Research Center, Beaverton, Oregon 97006, USA
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Address for correspondence: Judy L. Cameron, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Voice: 724-733-3795; fax: 724-327-1271.


Abstract: This paper summarizes the goals of this section and considers current knowledge about the association between hormonal changes that occur over pubertal development and the changes in behavior and brain function over the adolescent period. It reviews the cascade of neural and hormonal changes that occur with puberty; discusses mechanisms by which these changes can affect higher-order brain processes; reviews the current limited state of knowledge about links between puberty and changes in affect regulation in the adolescent period; identifies hurdles that have made progress in our understanding of these relationships difficult; and suggests areas for future investigation that will allow us to obtain a much more comprehensive understanding of these interrelationships. This overview of the physiological processes occurring at puberty indicates that puberty (1) encompasses changes in a number of neural systems; (2) results in altered secretion of a number of hormones; (3) involves hormones that are secreted in a pulsatile manner so that collection of a single blood sample does not clearly delineate hormone profiles; and (4) shows considerable individual variation in the rate of progression and in hormone secretion during progression. The important role that gonadal steroid hormones play throughout development and adulthood in regulating plastic changes in neuronal structure and function is noted, highlighting the need for further studies to determine the extent to which the dramatic increases in circulating steroid hormones at puberty modulate brain circuits that underlie changes in social behaviors, risk-taking behaviors, and cognitive function at adolescence.