Neurosteroids are basically steroids that can either travel into the brain orget produced in the brain, and can affect the organ’s various functions. Experts also refer to neurosteroids as neuroactive steroids.
These steroids are often classified into two types – inhibitory and excitatory. Inhibitory neurosteroids prevent the transmission of signals across neurons, while excitatory ones increase the chances that transmission will occur.
There are also special kinds of neurosteroids, namely proneurosteroids and pheromones. Proneurosteroids are neurosteroids that get converted into other neurosteroids, while pheromones specifically target the hypothalamus.
Examples of neurosteroids include epipregnanolone (excitatory), tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone (inhibitory), cholestane cholesterol (inhibitory), and androstadienol (pheromone).
Note that some neurosteroids fall under two classes. For example, pregnenolone, a progesterone precursor, can be considered both an inhibitory neurosteroid and a proneurosteroid.
The GABAA receptor is the brain’s main inhibitory transmitter, which means its activation prevents neurons from firing off. Depending on the situation, having your neurons send signals might not be beneficial.
For example, if you’re having a hard time going to sleep due to overthinking, your neurons are probablyin an excited state.Depression, anxiety, andpain all occur (at the biochemical level) due to this heightened excitability.
Now, with enough inhibitory neurosteroids, the GABAA receptor becomes more capable of shutting off this barrage of neural signals. This results to a feeling of calmness, making it easier to relax, sleep, or focus.
Neurosteroids are so potent in activating the GABAA receptor that they’re considered as potential substitutes to benzodiazepines – drugs used specifically for epilepsy treatment.
Benzodiazepines don’t always work because certain types of GABAA receptor aren’t sensitive towards them. Interestingly, even in these cases, neurosteroids still function quite well.
As we’ve mentioned, pregnenolone doesn’t merely fall under one class of neurosteroid. In a way, this is indicative of how useful in can be – whether as is or when converted by the body into other organic compounds.
It’s important to note, however, that while pregnenolone is available in supplement form and is typically recommended to be taken daily, there’s no established dosing guidelines for it.
Also, given the neurosteroid’s role as a precursor for several steroid hormones, there’s the possibility of it interfering with hormonal balance – especially when taken by those with existing hormone issues.
This doesn’t mean that pregnenolone is dangerous and doesn’t provide real benefits. After all, it’s even been found to help lower prostate cancer risk by influencing testosterone levels.
It’s simply important to emphasize that it still hasn’t undergone as much scientific analysis as one would like. It’s probably for this reason that manufacturers are required by law to put lengthy warnings on labels.