Early exposure to the steroid sex hormone testosterone and its estrogen metabolite estradiol masculinize neural tissue during a developmental critical period. Many aspects of neuron anatomy and physiology are permanently altered, including later sensitivity to estradiol. Although it is well established that early hormone exposure alters neuronal responsiveness regarding classical estradiol actions (i.e. acting via nuclear estrogen receptors), it has not yet been determined whether it also alters neuronal processing of nonclassical estrogen receptor signaling, including the actions of membrane-associated estrogen receptors. Hence, we tested whether membrane estrogen receptor regulation of cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) phosphorylation observed in female (but not male) hippocampal pyramidal neurons is due to the lack of androgen and/or estrogen exposure in females during this critical period. Female rat neonates on postnatal d 0 and 1 were systemically injected with one of four compounds: vehicle, testosterone, the nonaromatizable androgen dihydrotestosterone, or estradiol. On postnatal d 2, primary hippocampal neuron cultures were generated from these animals. After 8-9 d in culture, we assessed whether estradiol affected CREB phosphorylation. Neurons from female neonates exposed to testosterone lacked estradiol signaling to CREB. In contrast, dihydrotestosterone injections of female neonates did not disrupt estradiol regulation of CREB. Estradiol injections of female neonates, however, eliminated estradiol signaling to CREB. These findings indicate that testosterone aromatization to estradiol leads to a masculinization/defeminization process whereby hippocampal neurons fail to exhibit rapid estradiol signaling to CREB. Broadly, these findings extend the organizational and aromatization hypotheses to rapid, nonclassical hormone action.