Effect of Gonadal Hormones on Neurotransmitters Implicated in the Pathophysiology of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Critical Review
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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a relatively common neuropsychiatric disorder affecting between 1.6 and 3.2% of the population. A number of studies have previously reported increased incidence of OCD, or exacerbation of preexisting symptoms in females during reproductive events. Since these periods are known to involve fluctuating levels of gonadal hormones, these steroids have been suggested to be involved in modulating the course of the disorder. However, to date, only a few studies have measured hormone levels and obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms concurrently; thus, direct evidence for this relationship is limited. In turn, investigations into neurotransmission in OC individuals have been more extensive, and have implicated the serotonergic, dopaminergic, and glutamatergic neurotransmitter systems in OCD pathology. There is evidence suggesting that reproductive hormones estrogens and progesterone can modulate neurotransmission in the aforementioned signaling pathways by regulating the expression of receptors and channels, as well as the synthesis and release of the neurotransmitter itself. Overall, estrogen and progesterone appear to enhance serotonin signaling, which has been associated with improved OC symptoms. The effect of the gonadal hormones in dopaminergic and glutamatergic signaling is much more variable, highlighting the need for further research in this field. The existing evidence shows that gonadal hormones can have profound impacts on neurotransmission in the brain, leading to the conclusion that the hormonal fluctuations during reproductive events are a plausible factor contributing to the change in OCD course during these times.
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