Joel D, Fausto-Sterling A. Beyond sex differences: new approaches for thinking about variation in brain structure and function. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2016 Feb 19;371(1688). pii: 20150451. Feb 1. Review. PubMed PMID: 26833844.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2016 Feb 19;371(1688). pii: 20150451. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0451. Epub 2016 Feb 1.

Beyond sex differences: new approaches for thinking about variation in brain structure and function.

Joel D(1), Fausto-Sterling A(2).

Author information:
(1)School of Psychological Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel-Aviv, Israel Sagol School of Neuoroscience, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel-Aviv, Israel djoel@post.tau.ac.il.
(2)Department of Molecular Biology, Cell and Biochemistry, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.

In the study of variation in brain structure and function that might relate to sex and gender, language matters because it frames our research questions and methods. In this article, we offer an approach to thinking about variation in brain structure and function that pulls us outside the sex differences formulation. We argue that the existence of differences between the brains of males and females does not unravel the relations between sex and the brain nor is it sufficient to characterize a population of brains. Such characterization is necessary for studying sex effects on the brain as well as for studying brain structure and function in general. Animal studies show that sex interacts with environmental, developmental and genetic factors to affect the brain. Studies of humans further suggest that human brains are better described as belonging to a single heterogeneous population rather than two distinct populations. We discuss the implications of these observations for studies of brain and behaviour in humans and in laboratory animals. We believe that studying sex effects in context and developing or adopting analytical methods that take into account the heterogeneity of the brain are crucial for the advancement of human health and well-being.

© 2016 The Author(s).

PMCID: PMC4785909 [Available on 2017-02-19]
PMID: 26833844  [PubMed - in process]

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