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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2004 Sep;5(9):701-8.

Sex chromosomes and brain gender.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Science and Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology of the Brain Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles 90095-1606, USA.


In birds and mammals, differences in development between the sexes arise from the differential actions of genes that are encoded on the sex chromosomes. These genes are differentially represented in the cells of males and females, and have been selected for sex-specific roles. The brain is a sexually dimorphic organ and is also shaped by sex-specific selection pressures. Genes on the sex chromosomes probably determine the gender (sexually dimorphic phenotype) of the brain in two ways: by acting on the gonads to induce sex differences in levels of gonadal secretions that have sex-specific effects on the brain, and by acting in the brain itself to differentiate XX and XY brain cells.

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