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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 52 (2010) 4, 235 - 244

Review article

Women, schizophrenia and oestrogen; neurobiological hypotheses and hormonetherapy studies

M.A.M. Boerma, J.C. van der Stel, TH. van Amelsvoort, D.H. Linszen, L. de Haan

background Gender differences play a role in the origin and course of schizophrenia. It has been hypothesised that the gonadal hormone, oestrogen, may possibly perform a protective function in the development of certain forms of schizophrenia.
aim To review neurobiological hypotheses concerning the role of oestrogen in the development and course of schizophrenia.
method The relevant literature was consulted with the help of PubMed, textbooks and bibliographic references; the search terms used were 'oestrogen', 'schizophrenia', 'gender', 'epigenetics', 'psychosis', 'women' and 'brain'. There were no restrictions with regards to the timeperiod.
results Neuro-imaging, animal experiments and hormone-therapy studies showed several effects of oestrogen in the field of epigenetics, morphology of the brain, interaction with neurotransmitters and neuroprotection.
conclusion Oestrogen is an important link in a complex of factors that clearly play a role in the varying development of schizophrenia in men and women. So far, however, there is insufficient evidence to support the existence of a specific mechanism that would explain why oestrogen may perform a protective function in schizophrenia.

keywords epigenetics, gender, oestrogen, psychosis, schizophrenia