Seasonal variation in gonadal hormones, spatial cognition, and hippocampal attributes: More questions than answers

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A large body of research has been dedicated to understanding the factors that modulate spatial cognition and attributes of the hippocampus, a highly plastic brain region that underlies spatial processing abilities. Variation in gonadal hormones impacts spatial memory and hippocampal attributes in vertebrates, although the direction of the effect has not been entirely consistent. To add complexity, individuals in the field must optimize fitness by coordinating activities with the appropriate environmental cues, and many of these behaviors are correlated tightly with seasonal variation in gonadal hormone release. As such, it remains unclear if the relationship among systemic gonadal hormones, spatial cognition, and the hippocampus also exhibits seasonal variation. This review presents an overview of the relationship among gonadal hormones, the hippocampus, and spatial cognition, and how the seasonal release of gonadal hormones correlates with seasonal variation in spatial cognition and hippocampal attributes. Additionally, this review presents other neuroendocrine mechanisms that may be involved in modulating the relationship among seasonality, gonadal hormone release, and the hippocampus and spatial cognition, including seasonal rhythms of steroid hormone binding globulins, neurosteroids, sex steroid hormone receptor expression, and hormone interactions. Here, endocrinology, ecology, and behavioral neuroscience are brought together to present an overview of the research demonstrating the mechanistic effects of systemic gonadal hormones on spatial cognition and the hippocampus, while, at a functional level, superimposing seasonal effects to examine ecologically-relevant circannual changes in gonadal hormones and spatial behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105151
JournalHormones and Behavior
StatePublished - May 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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