Our laboratory is involved in a broad array of studies concerning the actions of gonadal hormones on the central nervous system of both rodents and subhuman primates. Data accumulated from animal experiments and clinical studies demonstrate that gonadal hormones have many effects on the nervous system that extend beyond regulating gonadotropin and prolactin secretion and modulating sexual behavior. Among these are the effects that gonadal hormones have on mnemonic functions and protecting neurons. Our primary interest is the indirect synaptoplastic effect of both estrogen and testosterone on the hippocampus. The questions are that which subcortical structures that have a major influence on hippocampal electric activity mediate gonadal hormonal effects to the hippocampus and which transmitter systems are involved in these processes. The other major field of our interest is to determine the way via estrogen protects ventral mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons in non-human primates. Lack of gonadal hormones induces a major decrease of the total number of these cells and loss of dopamine cells results in Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to these studies, this laboratory is also involved in investigating the morphological alterations in the prefrontal cortex of a non-human primate model of dopamine deficit and schizophrenia, determine the role of septal pathways in the regulation of hippocampal function by stress and antidepressant treatments, the effectiveness of growth factors produced by fetal striatal or kidney tissue, a specific striatal cell type, or the growth factor, GDNF, delivered biologically from encapsulated cells on the survival and integration of grafted, fetal dopamine cells into the striatum of a primate model of Parkinson’s disease.
Csaba Leranth, M.D., Ph.D.