Sex differences in the Brain: Fact or Fiction? / Spolne razlike v možganih: Dejstvo ali izmišljotina?

author: Margaret M. McCarthy, Departments of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Maryland School of Medicine
published: Oct. 21, 2011,   recorded: October 2011,   views: 1622
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Everyone knows and agrees that men and women are different, they look different, dress different, behave different and often seem to think different. What is not agreed upon is why this is so. Is it societal expectations, parental guidance, biological determinism, genetics or some combination thereof? And the answer to the question is not important for mere curiosity, it is fundamental to major issues such as educational policies, health care, job equity and more. Parsing out the contributing role of each variable is exceedingly difficult in humans where we cannot conduct experiments or control for experience and environment. However, in animals we can do exactly that, and we can thereby determine how much nature versus nurture influences the establishment, maintenance and functional significance of sex differences in the brain. The next great challenge is to then determine how what we find in animals applies to humans, and perhaps more importantly, how it doesn’t. Sex differences in the brain come in many sizes, shapes and forms. The most robust differences between males and females are not surprisingly those directly relevant to reproduction. The neural underpinnings controlling sex behavior and control of gonadal function are establishing during a developmental sensitive period by the differential hormonal milieu found in males versus females. Considerable advances have been made in identifying the cellular mechanisms of early organizational effects of testosterone and its metabolite estradiol, which then determine adult physiology and behavior. These mechanisms are highly brain region specific and impact on cell death, axonal projections and synaptogenesis, resulting in a brain that combines varying degrees of maleness and femaleness. The study of reproductive endpoints is valid in its own right but also provides insight into the more subtle sex differences associated with cognition, emotionality, social behavior and relative risk of neurological disorders and diseases of mental health.


Vsi se strinjamo, da se moški in ženske med seboj razlikujejo, da so videti različni, različno se oblačijo, različno se obnašajo in pogosto se zdi, da tudi različno mislijo. Ne strinjamo pa se glede vzrokov, zakaj je to tako. So kriva družbena pričakovanja, vzgoja staršev, biološki determinizem, genetika ali kombinacije vsega tega? Odgovor na to vprašanje ni pomemben samo zaradi radovednosti same po sebi, pač pa tudi zato, ker ga moramo upoštevati na mnogih ključnih področjih, kot so izobraževalne politike, zdravstvena politika, enakost v zaposlovanju ipd. Pri ljudeh je skrajno težko opredeliti vlogo vsakega od dejavnikov, ker ne moremo izvajati eksperimentov ali nadzorovati izkušenj in okolja. Nasprotno pa pri živalih lahko počnemo natanko to, zato lahko določimo, koliko na oblikovanje, vzdrževanje in funkcionalno pomembnost spolnih razlik v možganih vpliva narava in koliko vzgoja. Naslednji velik izziv je, kako to, kar smo odkrili pri živalih, uporabiti pri razlagi ljudi, morda pa je še bolj pomembno, kako tega ne uporabiti. Spolne razlike v možganih se pojavljajo v številnih velikostih, oblikah. Najbolj jasne razlike med samci in samicami so – ne presenetljivo – tiste, ki so neposredno pomembne za razmnoževanje. Nevronske podpore, ki nadzirajo spolno obnašanje in nadzirajo delovanje spolnih žlez, se vzpostavljajo v občutljivem razvojnem obdobju, ko se z različnim hormonalnim okoljem ustvarjajo moški in ženski osebki. Precejšen napredek je bil narejen pri odkrivanju celičnih mehanizmov zgodnjih organizacijskih učinkov testosterona in njegovega metabolita estradiola, ki določata delovanje telesa in obnašanje v odraslosti. Ti mehanizmi so zelo natančno urejani v posameznih delih možganov in vplivajo na celično smrt, rast aksonov in oblikovanje sinaps, končni rezultat pa so možgani, ki so kombinacija različne stopnje moškosti in ženskosti. Raziskave razvoja sistemov, ki nadzirajo razmnoževanje, so pomembne za razumevanje razmnoževanja samega, nudijo pa tudi vpogled v bolj subtilne spolne razlike, ki so povezane z mišljenjem, čustvovanjem, socialnim vedenjem in tudi relativnim tveganjem za nevrološka obolenja in duševne bolezni.

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