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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2011 Apr;32(2):227-46. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Oct 15.

The genetics of sex differences in brain and behavior.

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David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Gonda Center, Room 5506, 695 Charles Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7088, United States.


Biological differences between men and women contribute to many sex-specific illnesses and disorders. Historically, it was argued that such differences were largely, if not exclusively, due to gonadal hormone secretions. However, emerging research has shown that some differences are mediated by mechanisms other than the action of these hormone secretions and in particular by products of genes located on the X and Y chromosomes, which we refer to as direct genetic effects. This paper reviews the evidence for direct genetic effects in behavioral and brain sex differences. We highlight the 'four core genotypes' model and sex differences in the midbrain dopaminergic system, specifically focusing on the role of Sry. We also discuss novel research being done on unique populations including people attracted to the same sex and people with a cross-gender identity. As science continues to advance our understanding of biological sex differences, a new field is emerging that is aimed at better addressing the needs of both sexes: gender-based biology and medicine. Ultimately, the study of the biological basis for sex differences will improve healthcare for both men and women.

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