The female sex hormone estrogen has been ascribed potent neuroprotective properties. It signals by binding and activating estrogen receptors that, depending on receptor subtype and upstream or downstream effectors, can mediate gene transcription and rapid non-genomic actions. In this way, estrogen receptors in the brain participate in modulating neural differentiation, proliferation, neuroinflammation, cholesterol metabolism, synaptic plasticity, and behavior. Circulating sex hormones decrease in the course of aging, more rapidly at menopause in women, and slower in men. This review will discuss what this drop entails in terms of modulating neuroprotection and resilience in the aging brain downstream of spatiotemporal estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and beta (ERβ) signaling, as well as in terms of the sex differences observed in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD). In addition, controversies related to ER expression in the brain will be discussed. Understanding the spatiotemporal signaling of sex hormones in the brain can lead to more personalized prevention strategies or therapies combating neurodegenerative diseases.
© 2021 The Author(s).