Benz[f]indenes are tricyclic compounds with a linear 6-6-5 fused carbocyclic ring system. When properly substituted, benz[f]indenes can satisfy the pharmacophore requirements of the critical hydrogen-bond donor and acceptor groups found in neuroactive steroids that modulate γ-aminobutyric acidA (GABAA) receptor function. Thus, the benz[f]indene ring system provides an opportunity to extend the previously well-studied GABAA receptor structure-activity relationships (SAR) of neuroactive steroids to a different ring system. Depending on whether the stereochemistry of the 6-6-5 ring fusions are trans-trans or cis-trans, either planar or nonplanar benz[f]indenes are obtained. We found that the planar trans-trans benz[f]indenes are active, but less active than the steroids they were designed to mimic, whereas the nonplanar cis-trans compounds have little, if any, activity. The results provide new insight into the importance of the steroid framework for the actions of neuroactive steroids at GABAA receptors.