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From The CriticsReviewer: Shino Magaki, PhD (Loma Linda University)
Description: Both animal and human studies have demonstrated the importance of hormones and environmental factors in mediating sexual differences in the developing brain. This book describes the mechanisms by which these factors affect these differences and provides an overview of the recent discoveries in the field.
Purpose: This is an introduction to the genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences that lead to differences in brain development between males and females. The author, in particular, focuses on the role of steroid hormones in regulating the process of sexual differentiation.
Audience: The book is written for scientists and graduate students. The author is a developmental neuroendocrinologist studying the effects of steroid hormones on sex differences in the developing brain and is an expert in the field.
Features: The first few chapters are an introduction to sex differentiation in general and the dominant role of steroid hormones in that process. From there, the focus narrows onto the specific mechanisms by which these hormones influence brain development to ultimately result in the differences in reproductive functions and behavior between males and females. The book is sprinkled with reviews of fundamental molecular mechanisms amidst more in-depth details on the downstream effects of steroids as well as their roles in neurogenesis and synaptogenesis. Portions of the book assume that readers are familiar with certain molecular pathways as well as basic neural circuitry. The latter part of the book broadens again to describe sex differences in behavior as the net result of a complex interplay of endogenous and exogenous variables.
Assessment: This book reads like a scientific review of the effect of steroid hormones on the sexual differentiation of the brain for the majority of its pages. However, it also touches on other significant variables, such as specific genes and the environment, in a manner more for general interest. The molecular details are mainly of interest to scientists in the field, and the videos on the downstream effects of estradiol in synaptogenesis are helpful. The author also points out the many gaps that still exist in our current understanding of sexual differences in the brain that researchers and students may aspire to fill.