Sex steroids exert actions of paramount importance on brain cells. They contribute to shape the central nervous system during embryo development. They modulate the formation and the turnover of the interconnections between neurons. They control the function of glial cells. And they do it through a signaling machinery that is apparently simple, but that hides a level of complexity that has been unveiled only in part. Different receptor isoforms, different interactions between receptors and co-regulators, chains of events originating at the cell membrane and leading to effects in the nucleus (or the other way around) all interact to determine selective modulations of brain cells. All these actions end up in phenomenal effects on brain function that change through adolescence, pregnancy, adulthood, up to menopause and ageing. Many of these actions are relevant for degenerative processes and research may offer soon new strategies to counteract these diseases.