On the Science of Changing Sex

An Issue Whose Time Has Come:

Posted in Brain Sex by Kay Brown on August 12, 2017

jnr23934-toc-0001-mSex/Gender Influences on Nervous System Function

The recent spring issue of the Journal of Neuroscience Research was wholely dedicated to papers on sexual dimorphism of the brain.  Of course, many will debate that there is in fact any influence of sex, much less gender (identity), on nervous system function.  I’ve written about this before, how the politics can lead some to make the charge of “neurosexism”, deserved or not.

Larry Cahill, the editor remarked about it thus,

” “Be careful, it’s the third rail.” I received this strong advice to steer clear of studying sex differences from a senior colleague around the year 2000 when my research into brain mechanisms of emotional memory began drawing me into the issue of sex differences—or better yet, sex influences—on brain function. And in a way, he was right. For the vast majority of his long and distinguished neuroscience career, exploring sex influences was indeed a terrific way for a brain scientist not studying reproductive functions to lose credibility at best, and at worst, become a pariah in the eyes of the neuroscience mainstream.  …  Fortunately, times are changing. The past 15 to 20 years in particular witnessed an explosion of research (despite the prevailing biases against the topic) documenting sex influences at all levels of brain function. So overpowering is the wave of research that the standard ways of dismissing sex influences (e.g., “They are all small and unreliable,” “They are all due to circulating hormones,” “They are all due to human culture,” and “They don’t exist on the molecular level”) have all been swept away, at least for those cognizant of the research.”

This is an exciting development and this issue is full of great information.  The best thing about it?  It is NOT behind a paywall.  The entire issue is free to read.  And read it you must if you are to remain at the cutting edge of sex influences on the nervous system.

The papers discuss a wide range of topics including the neurology of people with Disorders of Sexual Development (i.e. “intersex”) to the rather dry and esoteric.  I’ve been enjoying reading them and will likely be referencing them in future.

Further Reading:

Essay on the effects of HRT on Transsexual’s Brains and the politics of Brain Sex

“Two minds – The cognitive differences between men and women” By Bruce Goldman

Reference:

Journal of Neuroscience Research
An Issue Whose Time Has Come: Sex/Gender Influences on Nervous System Function
January/February 2017, Volume 95, Issue 1-2
Version of Record online: 7 NOV 2016 | DOI: 10.1002/jnr.23934

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