This article is part of a Special Issue "Estradiol and Cognition".Variations in the steroid hormone 17ß-estradiol (E2) may promote intra-individual differences in reward seeking behavior and temporal decision-making (Reimers et al., 2014; Front. Neurosci. 8: 401). Yet, in humans the exact role of E2 in impulsive choice still needs to be determined. The present study assessed the effect of a cycle-dependent rise in endogenous E2 on temporal response adaptation across the follicular phase (FP). For this purpose a reward acquisition paradigm was employed that is sensitive to hormone-induced changes in central dopamine (DA) level. The present data show that women acted more impulsively in the early as opposed to the late FP. Early follicular E2 further correlated with an increased capacity to speed up for reward maximization, while simultaneously the ability to wait for higher reward was compromised. This correlation was most pronounced in women with low trait impulsiveness. In contrast, E2 and optimized response speed failed to correlate in women with high trait impulsiveness and in the late FP, despite a generally higher E2 level. Collectively, these findings support the theory that E2 may act as an endogenous DA agonist. The fact that the hormone-behavior relationship was restricted to women with low trait impulsiveness and thus supposedly lower central DA level provides indirect support for this idea. Yet, choices became relatively less impulsive in the state of heightened E2 (i.e., in the late FP), suggesting that the relationship between E2 and impulsive choice may not be linear, but might resemble an inverted U-function.
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