Bruce S. McEwen

The Rockefeller University

Election Year: 1997
Primary Section: 28, Systems Neuroscience
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

As a neuroscientist and neuroendocrinologist, I have studied environmentally-regulated, variable gene expression in the brain mediated by circulating steroid hormones and endogenous neurotransmitters in relation to brain sexual differentiation and the actions of sex, stress, and thyroid hormones on the adult brain. We combine molecular, anatomical, pharmacological, physiological, and behavioral methodologies and relate our findings to human clinical information. We found receptors for adrenal steroids in the hippocampus that are transcription factors, a discovery that has triggered an ever-growing number of studies throughout the world on the neural effects of adrenal steroids and stress on the hippocampus. We now find that adult hippocampal neurons undergo a range of structural changes that indicate how adaptable they are: stress-induce remodelling of dendrites, neurogenesis that is inhibited by stress, biphasic stress hormone effects on long-term potentiation and memory processes. Moreover, estradiol induces synaptogenesis in the adult hippocampus during the estrous cycle of the female rat. Our earlier work on gonadal hormone action described estrogen receptors in the developing brain and demonstrated the role of aromatization of testosterone in rat brain sexual differentiation, as well as key actions of estradiol on the hypothalamus that activate sexual behavior in adulthood. We found that estrogens regulate cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain, a finding that provided the rationale for the first trial of estrogens for Alzheimer's disease.

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