Sex And The Developing Brain

Sex And The Developing Brain

by Margaret McCarthy
     
 
The brains of males and females, men and women, are different-that is a fact. What is debated is how different and how important those differences are. Sex differences in the brain are determined by genetics, hormones, and experience, which in humans includes culture, society, and parental and peer expectations. The importance of nonbiological variables to sex

Overview

The brains of males and females, men and women, are different-that is a fact. What is debated is how different and how important those differences are. Sex differences in the brain are determined by genetics, hormones, and experience, which in humans includes culture, society, and parental and peer expectations. The importance of nonbiological variables to sex differences in humans is paramount, making it difficult if not impossible to parse out those contributions that are truly biological. The study of animals provides us the opportunity to understand the magnitude and scope of biologically based sex differences in the brain and understanding the cellular mechanisms provides us insight into novel sources of brain plasticity. Many sex differences are established during a developmental sensitive window by differences in the hormonal milieu of males versus females. The neonatal testis produces large amounts of testosterone, which gains access to the brain and is further metabolized into active androgens and estrogens, which modify brain development. Major parameters that are influenced by hormones include neurogenesis, cell death, neurochemical phenotype, axonal and dendritic growth, and synaptogenesis. Variance in these parameters results in sex differences in the size of particular brain regions, the projections between brain regions, and the number and type of synapses within particular brain regions. The cellular mechanisms are both region and endpoint specific and invoke many surprising systems such as prostaglandins, endocannabinoids, and cell death proteins. By understanding when, why, and how sex differences in the brain are established, we may also learn the source of strong gender biases in the relative risk and severity of numerous neurological diseases and disorders of mental health, including but not limited to autism, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, and maj

Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: 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.
Reviewer: 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781615040605
Publisher:
Morgan & Claypool Publishers
Publication date:
10/29/2010
Series:
Colloquium Series on the Developing Nervous System Series
Pages:
108
Product dimensions:
7.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.22(d)

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