Effects of GnRH blockade on neurocognitive and physiological endpoints

Evans (PI), Robinson (co-investigator), McLaughlin (co-investigator)

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It has long been recognised that behaviour and cognitive function differ between the sexes and are influenced by reproductive state. Recent advances in imaging technology have allowed identification of differences in brain structures that may underlie such sexually dimorphic traits. In addition, GnRH receptor expression has been documented in extra-hypothalamic areas, providing a possible link between puberty and sex differences in behaviour and cognition.

Classically, sexual differentiation of the brain is thought to occur following prenatal exposure to gonadal steroids. Yet profound neuronal development is also seen during adolescence. While puberty is characterised by marked hormonal changes, little is known about the influence of pubertal hormones on the interface between brain structure, behaviour and cognitive ability.

This study will examine the effects of pubertal hormones on behaviour, cognitive function and neuroendocrine systems, in sheep that did or did not experience puberty. Real-time rtPCR, in-situ hybridisation and immunohistochemical methods will be used to investigate steroid receptor expression and neurotransmitter systems in the pituitary gland, hypothalamus and other brain areas known to be sexually dimorphic in adults.

The study will elucidate long-term effects of pharmacological blocking of puberty as method of treatment for children with growth retardation and Gender Identity Disorder.