“Neuro” is the study of the brain and nervous system. “Endocrinology” is the study of hormones. Neuroendocrinology, therefore, is the study of interactions between hormones and the brain, primarily how hormones affect behavior. Hormonal imbalances can cause changes in menstrual cycles, seizures, depression, and many more issues. Treating these imbalances can help patients with hormonal and neurological conditions to live normal, fulfilling lives.
Neuroendocrinology: From Epilepsy to Migraines to Psychosis
Hormones are chemical messengers that transport signals around the body. Different hormones have different functions. Some stimulate growth, others change our mood, and still others regulate metabolism or even control the reproductive cycle. When hormone levels are abnormal, signs of abnormal behavior and illness will arise – e.g., epileptic seizures, depression, weight gain.
Because hormones play a crucial role in so many of our body systems, neuroendocrinology combines elements from different fields, including OB/GYN, psychiatry, endocrinology and behavioral neurology. Doctors in these specialties often refer cases to a neuroendocrinologist for a closer examination of hormonal causes.
Do you need a neuroendocrinologist?
Neuroendocrine problems can take on many forms in both women and men. Many cases, including catamenial epilepsy and PMS, involve emotional disorders related to a woman’s menstrual cycle and reproductive hormones. Other cases may be the result of problems with the adrenal glands, thyroid, pituitary or other hormone-producing systems. Examples include:
- Catamenial epilepsy. Seizures occur at specific, predictable times
during a woman’s menstrual cycle and are resistant to standard anti-epileptic medications.
- Menopausal transition issues. These include seizure exacerbation, complications from hormone replacement therapy, and changes in mood, anxiety and cognition.
- Seizures in young women. When adolescent girls begin having periods, they sometimes begin experiencing premenstrual seizures as well.
- Neurological disorders. These include issues with memory, concentration, mood or anxiety, sometimes in the setting of another neurological or endocrinological condition – e.g., a past traumatic brain injury or thyroid gland dysfunction.
- Anxiety disorders. These may be caused by congenital adrenal hyperplasia and be resistant to standard pharmacologic interventions.
- Hypothalamic or pituitary gland lesions. In these cases, resulting hormonal changes may affect cognition and/or behavior.
- Reproductive hormone disorders in men. Temporal lobe epilepsy can provoke reproductive disorders, causing lowered sex drive, reduced potency or infertility.