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Brain Res. 2005 Aug 9;1052(2):130-8.

The expression of brain sexual dimorphism in artificial selection of rat strains.

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Departamento de Psicobiología, UNED, Madrid, Spain.


Central nervous system sex differences have two morphological patterns. In one pattern, males show larger measurements (volume, number of neurons) than females (male > female; m > f) and, in the other, the opposite is true (female > male; f > m). The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) is a unique model for the study of sex differences because it has dimorphic and isomorphic subdivisions, with the former showing the two sexually differentiated morphological patterns. Meanwhile, other CNS structures, like the locus coeruleus (LC), present the f > m pattern. The philogenetic maintenance of the two patterns of sexual differentiation can help to disentangle the functional meaning of sex differences. Laboratory rat strains, whether albino or pigmented, descend from the Wistar strain through artificial selection. The present work compares the BST and LC of Wistar and Long-Evans rats. The medial posterior subdivision of the BST (BSTMP) is sexually dimorphic (m > f pattern) in the original (Wistar) and derived (Long-Evans) strains, while the lateral anterior and medial anterior subdivisions of the BST and the LC only present sex differences (f > m pattern) in the ancestor Wistar strain. Isomorphic BST regions are the same in both strains. The fact that the BSTMP, which is implicated in male copulatory behavior, is sexually dimorphic in both strains, as well as in other species, including humans, indicates the relevance of this structure in male sexual behavior in mammals.

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