New Paper: Incorporating Sex Influences into Today’s Brain Research

Historically, most medical research has used male subjects (human and animal) and tissues, but recently there has been a notable increase in the acceptance of the need to incorporate sex influences into brain research. in 2014, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandated that all future biomedical research funded by the agency include sex differences.

But two years after the NIH passed its mandate, the research community continues to debate how best to address sex as a biological variable.

Why not just introduce female subjects to the studies, you might wonder, but it’s not that simple, as Jill Goldstein, director of research at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital explains in our new briefing paper:

Just adding more women into a study does not address many of the critical methodological issues involved in designing studies to identify sex effects… Sex impacts every level of analysis and therefore must be systematically incorporated into the beginning of the study. Understanding how to design a study that incorporates sex effects begins with education about these strategies.

For those seeking help with their studies, the Connors Center and other organizations, such as the NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health, provide guidance on how to design good sex difference studies.

Says Goldstein:

We’ve published papers, we’ve given presentations to a variety of different scientific societies, and we give workshops. And we are continuing to find ways to reach out and provide this information to the community… There is actually a lot of information out there on how to design experiments to effectively study sex differences already. But we want to make sure that scientists have the resources they need to do these studies in the right way.

Learn more in our new briefing paper, “Incorporating Sex Influences into Today’s Brain Research.”

– Ann L. Whitman

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