Why sex matters for neuroscience

man_woman_sign.jpgNeuroscientist Larry Cahill has written an in-depth review article for Nature Reviews Neuroscience arguing that understanding the difference between men and women is essential if we are to fully comprehend brain function and behaviour.

Traditionally, research in this area focused largely on sex behaviour, and it has only been during the last decade when the sex differences have been found in other areas.

Cahill notes that this includes “emotion, memory, vision, hearing, processing faces, pain perception, navigation, neurotransmitter levels, stress hormone action on the brain and disease states. Even otoacoustic emissions (audible ‘clicks’ made by the inner ear) differ reliably between the sexes, being both louder and more frequent in female than male adults, children and infants”.

The review examines the increasing amount of research in this area, and dismisses some myths regarding sex differences, including the myth that sex differences are small and insigificant, and that they can largely be explained by the action of sex hormones (such as oestrogen or testosterone) on the brain.

The article is available online as an open-access paper.

Link to Cahill’s article in Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

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