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From Sex Differences in Neuroscience to a Neuroscience of Sex Differences: New Directions and Perspectives

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889196890 Year: Pages: 199 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-689-0 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Internal medicine --- Medicine (General) --- Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-04-07 11:22:02
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Abstract

This research topic aims to integrate scattered findings on sex differences in neuroscience into a broader theory of how the human brain is shaped by sex and sex hormones in order to cause the great variety of sex differences that are commonly observed. It can be assumed that these differences didn’t occur arbitrarily, but that they rather determined and still determine evolutionary success of individuals and were shaped by the processes of natural and in particular sexual selection. Therefore, sex differences are not negligible and sex difference research cannot be discriminating against one sex or the other. In fact a better understanding of the underlying causes of sex differences has great advantages for both men and women and society as a whole, not only in terms of health care, but in every aspect of life. Gender equality can only work out if it is equally well understood for men and women what their individual resources and needs are. Therefore, it is of great importance to pave the way for identifying the underlying principles of structural and functional brain organization that cause men and women to act, think and feel differently. To this end it is of particular interest to identify possible similarities and interrelations between sex differences that did so far stand separately, in order to investigate whether they share a common source. To understand, where a specific sex difference comes from and whether or not it is caused by the same principle as other sex differences, it is necessary to explicitly link sex differences in behavior to their neuronal correlates and vice versa link sex differences in brain structure and function to their behavioral outcomes. In particular a new understanding of male and female brain functioning may arise from findings on how sex hormones interact with various neurotransmitter systems. In the past few years several findings demonstrated that women’s behavior is influenced by the sex hormone fluctuations they experience naturally during their menstrual cycle to the extent that sex differences may only be detectable in one cycle phase but not another. The study of menstrual cycle dependent effects gives important hints about which sex differences are activational and which are organizational. Additionally it only recently came to attention, that hormonal contraception may alter a women’s mood, cognition and behavior as a consequence of changes in brain structure and function. The underlying mechanisms are so poorly understood that it is even hard to predict, whether hormonal contraception will mask or amplify sex differences in a given task. Since the oral hormonal contraceptive pill is meanwhile used by 100 million women worldwide and even by teenagers whose brains are not yet fully developed, the question of how the synthetic steroids contained in hormonal contraceptives act on the brain is to be studied hand in hand with naturally occurring sex differences. This topic summarizes the current state of the art in sex difference research and gives new perspectives in terms of hypothesis generation an methodology. Both are necessary to gain a complete picture of what it is that makes a brain male or female and move towards a neuroscience of sex differences.

Immune Interactions during the Reproductive Cycle

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889195640 Year: Pages: 158 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-564-0 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Allergy and Immunology --- Medicine (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-01-19 14:05:46
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Mammalian pregnancy represents a unique immunological riddle in that the mother does not reject her allogeneic fetus. In part this is largely due to a general sequestration or diminution of T cell activity, and an increased involvement of the innate immune system. The field of immunology is concerned primarily with how innate and adaptive mechanisms collaborate to protect vertebrates from infection. Although many cellular and molecular actors have evidently important roles, antibodies and lymphocytes are considered to be the principal players. Yet despite their importance, it would be definitely simplistic to conclude that they are solely essential for immunity overall. A major distinction between adaptive and innate immunity is the spontaneity of the innate immune response, which utilizes an already pre-existing but limited repertoire of responding modules. The slower onset of adaptive immunity compensates by its ability to recognize a much broader repertory of foreign substances, and also by its power to constantly improve during a response, whereas innate immunity remains relatively unaffected. The interactions between the reproductive system and the immune system are of particular interest, since the reproductive system is unique in that its primary role is to assure the continuity of the species, while the immune system provides internal protection and thus facilitates continued health and survival. The modus operandi of these two morphologically diffuse systems involves widely distributed chemical signals in response to environmental input, and both systems must interact for the normal functioning of each. Furthermore, dysregulation of normal physiological interactions between the reproductive and immune systems can lead to severe pregnancy-related disorders or complications. On the other hand, by ameliorating auto-inflammatory conditions such as MS and RA, pregnancy may provide a unique insight into novel immune modulatory strategies. The scientific focus on reproductive–immune research has historically provided substantial insight into the interface between these two physiological systems. A translational research approach would involve a tight interaction between diverse scientific and clinical disciplines including immunology, obstetrics, haematology, haemostasis and endocrinology. With so much recent progress in the field, we believe that it is valuable and well-timed to review the broad variety of the relevant physiologic and pathologic aspects – from menstruation to fertilization and implantation, and from placentation and pregnancy per se to the post partum condition - in which the immune system takes part. We are looking forward to a wide and vivid discussion of these and related issues, and we sincerely expect that our readers profoundly benefit from new exciting insights and fruitful collaborations.

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