New study shows how male, female brain differences develop
Nematode worms act differently because of their sex-specific circuits inside their brains. Studying these differences with funds from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), may be able to help researchers learn more about human brains and connections.
“For decades, there has been little focus on the impact of sex on many areas of biomedical research,” Coryse St. Hillaire-Clarke, program officer on this NINDS project, said. “This study helps us understand how sex can influence brain connectivity.”
Before the nematode worms became sexually mature, their brains had hybrid (or mixed) connections that joined both female and male mental arrangements. Throughout the maturing process, the brains eliminated or “pruned” the connections that were hybrid, resulting in sexually mature worms that contain only male or female brain connections.
“We found that differences in male and female brains develop from a ground state, which contains features of both sexes,” Oliver Hobert, professor of biological sciences at Columbia University in New York City, said. “From this developmental state, distinctly male or female features eventually emerge.”
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