Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture

Lecture | Brad Cooke | Male and Female Brains: A Distinction that Makes a Difference

Episode Summary

Lecture | Brad Cooke | Male and Female Brains: A Distinction that Makes a Difference

Episode Notes

Thursday, 4:00 pm, PAIS 290 We have known for more than forty years that the brains of humans and other animals are sexually dimorphic. That is, there are reliable differences in the average size, shape, and connectivity of male and female brains. While the existence of neural sex differences is beyond dispute, their significance is controversial. What do neural sex differences mean for social norms, mental health, and the perennial argument about “nature vs. nurture”? This talk will focus on the neuroscience of sex differences. The speaker will describe how sex differences in the brain are typically studied and how the factors that influence their development have been identified. Gonadal hormones such as testosterone and estrogen play a major role in establishing sex differences. Yet at the same time, sex-typical experiences are also important in the development of male and female brains. That is, both hormones and hormone-driven experience seem to be necessary for the normal development and expression of sex-typical brains and behaviors. Many complex psychiatric conditions, such as drug abuse, anxiety, and depression, vary by sex in terms of their prevalence, age-of-onset, and severity. Thus, while sex differences are intrinsically interesting, they may also provide clues about the origins of mental illness and potential treatments. The final part of the talk will focus on Dr. Cooke’s research at Georgia State University in which he and his students have sought to identify factors that influence the sex-specific prevalence of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. He will describe their efforts to develop a model of adverse early experience and its impact on anxiety- and depression-like behaviors in the laboratory rat. October 2, 2014
 Many complex psychiatric conditions, such as drug abuse, anxiety, and depression, vary by sex in terms of their prevalence, age-of-onset, and severity. Thus, while sex differences are intrinsically interesting, they may also provide clues about the origins of mental illness and potential treatments. The final part of the talk will focus on Dr. Cooke’s research at Georgia State University in which he and his students have sought to identify factors that influence the sex-specific prevalence of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. He will describe their efforts to develop a model of adverse early experience and its impact on anxiety- and depression-like behaviors in the laboratory rat. Finally, and if time permits, Dr. Cooke will present some exciting new data concerning his lab's use of a novel brain - computer interface to study sex differences at the neural network level.