The organizational effects of gonadal steroids on sexually dimorphic spatial ability.

Journal Article (Review;Journal Article)

Numerous studies have provided evidence that both human and nonhuman males reliably outperform females on tasks that require spatial ability. Because most of the research on this topic has utilized hormonally normal adults as subjects, it is still not known to what extent, if any, sex differences in spatial ability can be attributed to hormonally organized dimorphisms in neural structures subserving cognitive function. The purpose of this paper is to address this critical issue in three areas: (1) Research that demonstrates that male rodents initially outperform females on maze tasks that utilize visuospatial representation will be reviewed. (2) New data which provide strong evidence for the organizational effects of gonadal steroids will be described. The timing of the sensitive period for hormone action, the specific hormones involved and their possible sites of action will be discussed. (3) The question of what behavioral processes hormones might be affecting to cause differential performance on spatial tasks will be examined. The studies described in this review suggest that gonadal steroids, probably the testosterone metabolite estradiol, cause organizational effects during perinatal development which have multiple effects on the associational-perceptual-motor biases that guide visuospatial navigation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Williams, CL; Meck, WH

Published Date

  • January 1, 1991

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 16 / 1-3

Start / End Page

  • 155 - 176

PubMed ID

  • 1961837

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-3360

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0306-4530

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/0306-4530(91)90076-6


  • eng