Androgens regulate the dendritic length of mammalian motoneurons in adulthood

Science  18 Apr 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4748, pp. 395-398
DOI: 10.1126/science.3961488


Sex steroid hormones have been thought to alter behaviors in adulthood by changing the activity of neural circuits rather than by inducing major structural changes in these pathways. In a group of androgen-sensitive motoneurons that mediate male copulatory functions, decreases in androgen levels after castration of adult rats produced dramatic structural changes, decreasing both the dendritic length and soma size of these motoneurons. These changes were reversed by androgen replacement. These results imply a surprising degree of synaptic plasticity in adult motoneurons and suggest that normal changes in androgen levels in adulthood are associated with significant alterations in the structure and function of these neurons.