A growing body of evidence suggests that glial cells are involved in practically all aspects of neural function. Glial cells regulate the homeostasis of the brain, influence the development of the nervous system, modulate synaptic activity, and carry out the immune response inside the brain. In addition, they play an important role in the restoration of the nervous system after damage, and they also participate in various neurodegenerative disorders. In a similar way, the importance of stress and glucocorticoids (GCs) on brain function is being increasingly recognized. Within the brain, stress hormones target both neurons and glial cells. Through their actions on these cells, glucocorticoids exert organizational functions on various processes of the developing brain and contribute to neuronal plasticity in the adult brain. Moreover, stress and glucocorticoids have become especially attractive in the study of a number of neurodegenerative disorders. However, studies on the mechanisms behind glucocorticoid-induced regulation of brain function have been classically focused on their effects on neurons. In this review, we start by describing the main functions of glial cells and then proceed to present data highlighting the effects of stress and GCs on brain function. We conclude the review by presenting recent evidence linking stress and glucocorticoids to glial cell function.
Keywords: Glial cells, glucocorticoids, stress, inflammation, reactive gliosis, neurodegenerative disorders
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