Why Gender Matters p.314

In 2017, the Journal of Neuroscience Research devoted an entire issue to sex differences in every aspect of brain function, from vision to learning to mental illness. The issue was 791 pages long, with seventy-three different scholarly articles. Larry Cahill, a professor of neuroscience at the university of California at Irvine who served as editor for the special edition, wrote:

Due to a deeply ingrained, implicit (but false) assumption that “equal” means “the same,” most neuroscientists knew, and even feared that establishing that males and females are not the same in some aspect of brain function meant establishing that they were not equal. This assumption is false and deeply harmful, in particular to the health of women, but remains deeply impact nonetheless.

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.

These papers forcefully document the fact that sex influences on brain function are ubiquitous, regularly reshaping findings – hence conclusions – at all levels of our field, and powerfully demonstrating how much “sex matters.”

The notion that sex matters fundamentally, powerfully, and pervasively for all of neuroscience (not just for reproduction) is an idea whose time indeed has come.


Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.314


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