Chapter 12. Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases

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Women whose left index and ring fingers are different lengths are more likely to be lesbians, a study suggests. Scientists measured the fingers of 18 pairs of female identical twins, where one was straight and the other gay. On average, the lesbians, but not the straight twins, had different sized index and ring fingers, typically a male trait, but only on the left hand. This may be the result of exposure to more testosterone in the womb, the University of Essex researchers said. The scientists also measured the fingers of 14 pairs of male identical twins, where one was straight and the other gay, but found no link. Both men and women were exposed to the "male" hormone, testosterone, in the womb - but some may be exposed more than others, the scientists said. Study author Dr Tuesday Watts, from the psychology department at Essex University, said: "Because identical twins, who share 100% of their genes, can differ in their sexual orientations, factors other than genetics must account for the differences. "Research suggests that our sexuality is determined in the womb and is dependent on the amount of male hormone we are exposed to or the way our individual bodies react to that hormone, with those exposed to higher levels of testosterone being more likely to be bisexual or homosexual. © 2018 BBC

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25591 - Posted: 10.18.2018

Gina Mantica Have you ever seen a picture of a mother dog caring for an unusual baby, like a kitten? This sort of animal adoption story is an example of a phenomenon known as alloparenting: care provided to offspring that are not genetically related. We humans may toss around the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child,” but there are cases in the animal world where this is more literally true. Naked mole-rats, wrinkly mammals of the East African desert, offer an example of the whole “village” cooperating to raise offspring. Each individual naked mole-rat has a specific job. Like in a honeybee hive, a naked mole-rat colony has one queen, whose job it is to reproduce. There are just a few sexually reproductive males, who mate with the queen. All the others, both male and female, are either soldiers that protect the colony or workers that forage for food, dig tunnels and care for the queen’s offspring, known as pups. Until now, no one had a physiological explanation for why naked mole-rat workers care for pups that aren’t their own. Normally when a mom gives birth, estrogen levels are high and progesterone levels drop, resulting in maternal behaviors such as feeding or grooming. In many unusual adoption stories, like that of the mother dog caring for a kitten, the adoptive mom will have recently given birth to her own offspring – meaning her hormone levels have left her primed and ready to care for offspring, even those that aren’t her own. © 2010–2018, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 25577 - Posted: 10.16.2018

By Ann Gibbons When it comes to gorillas, the males who help females out with their infants get benefits. The benefits? More babies. A new study of male gorillas in the wild in Rwanda has found that those who spend the most time grooming infants and resting with them—others’ offspring as well as their own—have about five times more offspring than males who don’t help out with the little ones. This is surprising, scientists say, because male caretaking isn’t usually considered a smart reproductive strategy in primate species where access to females is intensely competitive. Instead, researchers thought the most successful strategy for males would be to put more time and energy into outcompeting other males for a mate, as chimps do. That strategy still works for many male gorillas, who dominate small harems of females. But in 40% of the groups of mountain gorillas studied at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda there is more than one male in a group, sometimes as many as nine. And those males need to be resourceful to get a female’s attention. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 25571 - Posted: 10.15.2018

Marc Bekoff Ph.D. "Despite many efforts to narrow the gender gap in leadership roles, women remain universally underrepresented in the top leadership positions in virtually every discipline, including in the sciences, politics and business. We were therefore interested in pursuing a non-traditional approach to understanding this phenomenon by looking for clues in societies of non-human animals." "We have much to learn from the fascinating ways that natural selection has favored behavioral traits of non-human animals. By studying non-human mammals where female rule the roost, we may gain insights into secrets for smashing the glass ceiling." I recently learned about a new research paper published in The Leadership Quarterly by Mills College biologist Dr. Jennifer Smith and her colleagues entitled "Obstacles and opportunities for female leadership in mammalian societies: A comparative perspective." I'd already read a short summary of this landmark study in a New Scientist piece titled "The 7 non-human mammals where females rule the roost," and was thrilled when Dr. Smith agreed to be interviewed about this detailed data-driven study that "elucidates barriers to female leadership, but also reveals that traditional operationalizations of leadership are themselves male-biased." Our interview went as follows. Why did you and your colleagues conduct the research you did concerning female leadership in non-human mammalian societies? Can you please explain the importance of the comparative perspective for readers who don't know what this entails? © 2018 Sussex Publishers, LLC

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Emotions
Link ID: 25567 - Posted: 10.12.2018

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent Healthy mice with two mothers have been born for the first time in a study that pushes the boundaries of reproductive science. Mice with two fathers were also born, but only survived a couple of days, the Chinese team behind the work reported. There is no imminent prospect of the techniques being used clinically in people, but the findings demonstrate that the biological barriers to same-sex reproduction can, technically, be overcome. “This shows us what’s possible,” said Wei Li, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a senior author of the paper. Scientists have previously managed to produce baby mice with same-sex parents, but the offspring had serious abnormalities and the methods used often required convoluted sequences of genetic manipulations, sometimes involving several generations of mice. The work explores a long-standing question in biology: that of why in mammals, equal genetic contributions from both a mother and a father are necessary. Elsewhere in the animal kingdom – in hammerhead sharks and komodo dragons, for instance – no genetic contribution from a father is required. A major barrier in mammals is a phenomenon known as “imprinting”, where for 100 or so genes only the copy that came from the mother or only the copy that came from the father are ever switched on. In the genome, maternal and paternal contributions are all jumbled together but these genes carry a chemical tag, labelling which parent the gene originated from in the first place. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25566 - Posted: 10.12.2018

By Daniel Ackerman Repeatedly heading a soccer ball exacts a toll on an athlete’s brain. But this cost—measured by the volume of brain cells damaged—is five times greater for women than for men, new research suggests. The study provides a biological explanation for why women report more severe symptoms and longer recovery times than men following brain injuries in sports. Previously some researchers had dismissed female players’ complaints because there was little physiological evidence for the disparity, says Michael Lipton, a neuroscientist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a co-author of the paper. Lipton’s team used magnetic resonance imaging to peer into the skulls of 98 adult amateur soccer players—half of them female and half male—who headed the ball with varying frequency during the prior year. For women, eight of the brain’s signal-carrying white matter regions showed structural deterioration, compared with just three such regions in men (damage increased with the number of reported headers). Furthermore, female athletes in the study suffered damage to an average of about 2,100 cubic millimeters of brain tissue, compared with an average of just 400 cubic millimeters in the male athletes. Lipton does not yet know the cause of these sex differences, but he notes two possibilities. Women may suffer stronger whiplash from a cranial blow because they generally have less muscle mass than men to stabilize the neck and skull. Alternatively, a dip in progesterone, a hormone that protects against swelling in the brain, could heighten women’s vulnerability to brain injury during certain phases of their menstrual cycle. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25556 - Posted: 10.10.2018

By Steph Yin Termites are often dismissed as nothing but home-destroying pests, less charismatic than bees, ants or even spiders. In fact, termites have been doing incredible things since the time of dinosaurs, maintaining complex societies with divisions of labor, farming fungus and building cathedrals that circulate air the way human lungs do. Now, add “overthrowing the patriarchy” to that list. In a study published this week in BMC Biology, scientists reported the first discovery of all-female termite societies. Among more than 4,200 termites collected from coastal sites in southern Japan, the researchers did not find a single male. Toshihisa Yashiro, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sydney and lead author of the paper, said in an email that he was utterly surprised by the discovery: “I got a headache, because we believed that having both males and females is the rule in termite societies.” The complete loss of males is rare across the animal kingdom, especially in animals with advanced societies. All-female lineages have previously been documented in a few ant and honey bee species, but their colonies are already dominated by queens and female workers. Termites, in contrast, are known for having colonies in which males and females both participate in social activities. Dr. Yashiro’s research is the first, in other words, to demonstrate that males can be discarded from advanced societies in which they once played an active role. His team collected 74 mature colonies of Glyptotermes nakajimai, a termite that nests in drywood, from 15 sites in Japan. Thirty-seven of the colonies were asexual and exclusively female, while the rest were mixed-sex. Egg-laying queens in asexual colonies stored no sperm in their reproductive organs and laid unfertilized eggs. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 25505 - Posted: 09.29.2018

by Angie Seech When I first started doing research into the changes that occur in a woman’s brain during pregnancy and the postpartum, I continued to come across the name of Jodi Pawluski, Ph.D., a researcher in the field of perinatal mental health. After reading this amazing review paper, I reached out to Jodi and her colleagues to thank her for her important work. Since that one email, I’ve had the opportunity to thank her in person and spend some time talking with her about perinatal mental health. Besides being a wonderful person, she is truly passionate about what she does and about helping women. Just read some of her answers to my questions about her research and views on the present and future status of maternal mental health and I’m sure you’ll agree! What is your ultimate goal as a researcher in this field? This is such a great, but broad, question! My ultimate goal is to have policies change to incorporate the importance of maternal mental and physical health for the mother. I also want these policies to value, promote, and support research on the neurobiology of motherhood and maternal mental illness. There is so much more that we need to know, but without support and interest we, as scientists, clinicians, parents, can’t find answers to our many questions. What is your most important question? Or the question that you really want to find the answer to in your career? At the moment I am doing some really interesting work on how maternal antidepressant medication use, such as SSRIs, can affect the neurobiology of the mother and developing offspring, using rodent models. One of my goals is to find out why some women respond well to SSRIs, such as Prozac, during the perinatal period and why others don’t. This is an important question and ultimately will allow for more precise and effective treatments. During my career I hope that my research significantly contributes to understanding how maternal mental illness affects the maternal brain and contributes to find ways in which we can safely and effectively treat these diseases. 2018 © MOMMY BRAIN EDU |

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Depression
Link ID: 25483 - Posted: 09.24.2018

By Douglas Quenqua For solitary animals, giant pandas have an awful lot to say to one another. Their vocal repertoire comprises more than a dozen distinct grunts, barks and squeaks, most of which amount to some version of “leave me alone.” But when mating season rolls around, both male and female giant pandas turn to their preferred come-hither call: a husky, rapid vibrato that’s commonly known as the bleat. The bleat not only alerts other pandas to the presence of an available mate, it contains important information about the vocalist’s size and identity. Given the dense bamboo thicket that limits visual contact in most panda habitats and the brevity of panda mating season — females ovulate just once a year and can conceive for only a few days — the pandas’ ability to perceive the bleat is critical to reproduction among this once-endangered species. Now, researchers have determined that the bleat works best as a local call. A panda can discern aspects of a caller’s identity. like its size, from a bleat within about 65 feet, but the caller’s gender is only perceptible within about 33 feet, according to a study published Thursday in Scientific Reports. Megan Owen, a conservation ecologist at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and an author of the study, offered a human analogy for how this ability works. “If you’re walking into a crowded room and someone calls out your name, there’s a certain point where you can identify who that is, or maybe you can identify that it’s a male or female that is calling your name,” she said. “There’s information that’s encoded in that call, but that information degrades over distance.” To conduct the study, Dr. Owen and her colleagues — including Ben Charlton, another San Diego institute researcher who has studied panda bleats — obtained recordings of giant pandas from Chengdu, China, during breeding season. They then played those recordings through a speaker in a section of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park that contains bamboo similar in type and density to a typical panda habitat. By placing recording devices throughout the bamboo, the researchers were able to capture and analyze the bleats from various distances. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 25475 - Posted: 09.21.2018

By Ben Guarino If you give an octopus MDMA, it will get touchy and want to mingle. What sounds like the premise of a children’s book set at Burning Man is, in fact, the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology. Neuroscientist Gül Dölen, who studies social behavior at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and octopus expert Eric Edsinger, a research fellow at Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., bathed octopuses in the psychedelic drug and observed the result. Most humans enjoy hanging with their buds. We share this trait with animals like dogs, but not with the California two-spot octopus. Octopus bimaculoides is an asocial creature, which means it avoids other octopuses whenever possible. Put it in a tank with another octopus, and it might become aggressive or squish itself shyly against a wall. There’s one exception — during mating, this asocial behavior stops. Dölen figured that a neuromechanism was at play and wondered whether MDMA (3-4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, better known as ecstasy) could trigger that mechanism to switch the cephalopod into a more social animal. This wasn’t wonder for its own sake. “There’s been a renaissance for looking at psychedelic drugs as possible therapeutics,” she said. Robert C. Malenka, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Stanford University, who was not involved with this study, called for increased study of MDMA in an influential Cell paper in 2016. MDMA has taboo associations with psychedelia and rave culture — it’s classified as Schedule 1, reserved for illegal drugs with high abuse potential. Nevertheless, it is being explored as a therapy for military veterans with PTSD. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25473 - Posted: 09.21.2018

By Jason Arment She was a cat lover with cotton-candy-colored hair and obnoxious tastes in music but similar politics to mine. While texting on Tinder, she suggested I might get to play with her kitty. We agreed that we would take her cat out to the park some time but that we would start with dinner and a drink. There were no other hints to me that anything thrilling might happen beyond my riding my motorcycle from Denver to Boulder for the meeting. Sitting together at an Italian restaurant, we got past the cat conversation and progressed to politics and music, jokes and laughter. We were communicating freely and enjoying each other’s company — pretty much everything I wanted out of a first date. As the waitress picked up the check, my date invited me back to her place. I went. I still didn’t think anything was going to happen until we were going to settle in to watch a movie and she changed her clothes right in front of me. So many veterans’ stories begin with them coming back home to find it’s a place with which they no longer identify. I don’t want to overstate my problems, but as a man who went to Iraq as a proud Marine only to realize what was happening there was nothing short of catastrophic, I started to rethink where exactly my heart aligned with my nation and where it fractured and split. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Stress
Link ID: 25467 - Posted: 09.20.2018

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent Hundreds of thousands of girls and women with autism are going undiagnosed due to it being viewed as a “male condition”, according to one of the UK’s leading neuroscientists. Prof Francesca Happé, director of the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London, warned that the failure to recognise autism in girls and women was taking a stark toll on their mental health. “We’ve overlooked autism in women and girls and I think there’s a real gender equality issue here,” she said. “I think we are missing large numbers and misdiagnosing them too.” Until recently, autism without intellectual impairments, sometimes called Asperger syndrome, was thought to predominantly affect boys and men, at a ratio of 10 to every one woman. However, there is growing evidence that the number of girls and women with the condition may have been vastly underestimated. Recent research, based on active screening rather than clinical or school records, found a ratio of 3:1. Happé and others believe this could fall further – potentially to as low as 2:1 – as diagnostic processes become better tailored to identifying autism in girls and women. Due to early assumptions about autism mostly affecting men, studies have often recruited male-only cohorts. Male participants in brain imaging studies on autism outnumber females by eight to one, and in earlier research the bias was even more pronounced. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Autism; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25453 - Posted: 09.15.2018

By Rebecca Nebel Growing older may be inevitable, but getting Alzheimer’s disease is not. Although we can’t stop the aging process, which is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s, there are many other factors that can be modified to lower the risk of dementia. Yet our ability to reduce Alzheimer’s risk and devise new strategies for prevention and treatment is impeded by a lack of knowledge about how and why the disease differs between women and men. There are tantalizing hints in the literature about factors that act differently between the sexes, including hormones and specific genes, and these differences could be important avenues of research. Unfortunately, in my experience, most studies of Alzheimer’s risk combine data for women and men. For that reason, researchers at the Society for Women’s Health Research Interdisciplinary Network on Alzheimer’s Disease recently published a review paper in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association that calls for greater analysis of research data by sex to stimulate new approaches that will improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s. We have some evidence, for example, that sex hormones such as estrogen influence the course of the disease, but we do not understand enough about why and how. Ovaries are the primary source of estrogen for premenopausal women, and surgical removal of a woman’s ovaries before menopause is associated with a higher risk of dementia. But using estrogen therapy after surgery until age 50 negates that risk. This fact suggests that estrogen may be protective in premenopausal women. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Alzheimers; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25418 - Posted: 09.05.2018

By Meredith Wadman Controversy is exploding around a paper published earlier this month in PLOS ONE by a public health expert at Brown University describing reports by parents that their children suddenly experienced unease with the gender they were assigned at birth; the paper calls the condition “rapid onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD). The paper, by physician-scientist Lisa Littman, is drawing fierce criticism from transgender advocates, who call it antitransgender because it suggests that some cases of gender dysphoria may be “socially contagious.” They say the paper has serious methodological flaws, noting that Littman interviewed only parents, not the young people themselves, and recruited from websites frequented by parents who were concerned about their children’s apparently sudden gender transitions. Meanwhile, the reactions of Brown and the journal are being assailed by critics who accuse them of caving to political pressure. On Monday, PLOS ONE announced it is conducting a postpublication investigation of the study’s methodology and analysis. “This is not about suppressing academic freedom or scientific research. This is about the scientific content itself—whether there is anything that needs to be looked into or corrected,” PLOS ONE Editor-in-Chief Joerg Heber in San Francisco, California, told ScienceInsider in an interview yesterday. Also on Monday, Brown officials removed the university’s press release highlighting the paper from its website. On Tuesday, Bess Marcus, dean of Brown’s School of Public Health, wrote in an open statement that the university acted “in light of questions raised about research design and data collection related to the study.” She added that people in the Brown community have raised concerns that the study’s conclusions “could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.” © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25405 - Posted: 08.31.2018

Shawna Williams Deciphering the communications of electric fish in their native streams is not for the faint of heart. “Once in a while, there is a thunderstorm ten kilometers away, then at some point the water level of those streams rises by one meter in one hour or so,” says Jan Benda, a computational neuroscientist at the University of Tübingen in Germany. “Then we are in big trouble with our equipment.” Even in the absence of extreme weather, given the normal heat and humidity levels at his team’s research sites in Panama and Columbia, “things break and then you sit there in the field and try to solder a wire back to something late at night,” he says, laughing. “You’re dreaming about your nice lab where everything is so easy.” To reach the study site with their equipment, researchers traveled by boat, and then on foot. Benda was driven from his comfortable lab a few years ago by a gaping hole in the body of scientific knowledge: weakly electric fish, which use electricity to communicate but not to stun prey, are popular subjects for neuroscientists who want to know how vertebrate brains process sensory information, but few if any researchers had ever eavesdropped on the animals zap-chatting in nature. Gaining this type of insight into the behavior of a species studied for decades in the lab is “a massively important undertaking,” says Malcolm MacIver, a neuroscientist and engineer researching animal behavior at Northwestern University in Illinois. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Animal Communication
Link ID: 25401 - Posted: 08.31.2018

Laurel Hamers Dealing with poop is an unavoidable hazard of raising children, regardless of species. But for naked mole rats, that wisdom is especially salient. During pregnancy, the scat of a naked mole rat queen — the only female in the colony that reproduces, giving birth to a few dozen pups each year — contains high levels of the sex hormone estradiol. When subordinate female naked mole rats eat that poop, the estradiol they pick up cues them to snap into parenting mode and care for the queen’s offspring, researchers report the week of August 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In colonies of naked mole rats (Heterocephalus glaber), lower-ranking females don’t have developed ovaries and don’t reproduce. They also don’t experience the pregnancy-induced hormonal shifts that usually cue parenting behaviors, yet they still care for the queen’s babies. Researchers gave poop pellets from nonpregnant queens to subordinates for nine days. One group got pellets with added estradiol, to mimic pregnancy poop. Levels of estradiol increased in the dung of subordinate females that ate the hormone-packed pellets, suggesting that scat snacks could induce measurable hormonal changes. And those mole rats were more responsive to the cries of pups than those that didn’t get the hormone boost, the team found. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 25383 - Posted: 08.28.2018

By Steph Yin Pipefish, along with their cousins sea horses and sea dragons, defy convention in love and fertility. In a striking role reversal, fathers give birth instead of mothers. During courtship, females pursue males with flashy ornaments or elaborate dances, and males tend to be choosy about which females’ eggs they’ll accept. Once pregnant, these gender-bending fathers invest heavily in their young, supplying embryos with nutrients and oxygen through a setup similar to the mammalian placenta. But this investment may also be cruelly conditional, according to a new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Studying pipefish, scientists found evidence that pregnant fathers spontaneously abort or divert fewer resources to their embryos when faced with the prospects of a superior mate — in this case, an exceptionally large female. The researchers named their finding the “woman in red” effect, after the eponymous 1984 Gene Wilder film about a married man’s obsession with a woman in a red dress that becomes damaging to his family life. The reported effect is an interesting instance of sexual conflict, which is ubiquitous among animals, said Sarah Flanagan, a pipefish expert at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. If you’re a romantic, you might think of mating as harmonious. But in nature, reproduction is more often a vicious power struggle between mothers and fathers with competing interests. A maternal analogue to the “woman in red” effect occurs among mice. Males are willing to kill a female’s offspring, if they are unrelated to him, before mating with her. In anticipation, a pregnant mother may terminate her pregnancy when exposed to a new male, rather than spending resources on doomed offspring. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 25378 - Posted: 08.25.2018

Leah Rosenbaum A firefly’s blinking behind is more than just a pretty summer sight. It’s known that fireflies flash to attract mates (SN Online: 8/12/15) — but the twinkles may serve another purpose as well. Jesse Barber, a biologist at Boise State University, had a hunch that the lights also warn off potential nighttime predators. He wasn’t the first person with this hypothesis. As far back as 1882, entomologist G.H. Bowles wrote of fireflies: “May not the light then serve … as a warning of their offensiveness to creatures that would devour them?” But the theory hadn’t been tested, until now. “We always assumed that bats don’t use vision for much,” Barber says. Many species of fireflies are “chemically protected,” meaning they taste awful to predators, Barber says. Yet if an insect doesn’t offer a warning of its bad taste, it may get sampled anyway. Barber noticed that, unlike moths, which signal their toxicity to bats with noises, fireflies don’t make a peep (SN Online: 7/3/13). He wondered if lightning bugs were warning bats of their disgusting taste with their blinking lights. Barber and colleagues wanted to see if it took bats longer to learn to avoid fireflies when the flashings were masked. The team began by introducing fireflies to three bats that had never encountered the bugs before. The bats learned to avoid the bright creatures “after just a few interactions,” Barber says. Those early exchanges went something like: catch, taste, drop. Soon, the bats avoided the fireflies completely. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018. All rights reserved.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25371 - Posted: 08.24.2018

By Nicole M. Baran When Kathleen Morrison stepped onto the stage to present her research on the effects of stress on the brains of mothers and infants, she was nearly seven and a half months pregnant. The convergence was not lost on Morrison, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, nor on her audience. If there ever was a group of scientists that would be both interested in her findings and unfazed by her late-stage pregnancy, it was this one. Nearly 90 percent were women. It is uncommon for any field of science to be dominated by women. In 2015, women received only 34.4 percent of all STEM degrees.1 Even though women now earn more than half of PhDs in biology-related disciplines, only 36 percent of assistant professors and 18 percent of full professors in biology-related fields are women.2 Yet, 70 percent of the speakers at this year’s meeting of the Organization for the Study of Sex Differences (OSSD), where Morrison spoke, were women. Women make up 67 percent of the regular members and 81 percent of trainee members of OSSD, which was founded by the Society for Women’s Health Research. Similarly, 68 percent of the speakers at the annual meeting of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology (SBN) in 2017 were women. In the field of behavioral neuroendocrinology, 58 percent of professors and 62 percent of student trainees are women. The leadership of both societies also skews female, and the current and recent past presidents of both societies are women. It wasn’t always this way. As Elizabeth Adkins-Regan, a professor emerita at Cornell University and the recent past president of the SBN puts it: “The whole field was founded by guys!” “It was not a women’s field in the beginning,” agrees C. Sue Carter, director of the Kinsey Institute and professor of biology at Indiana University. © 2018 NautilusThink Inc

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 25341 - Posted: 08.17.2018

By Dana G. Smith Postpartum depression afflicts 10 to 20 percent of the nearly four million women who give birth in the U.S. every year. The condition hits at a vulnerable moment when mother and infant normally begin to bond. Depressed moms pay less attention to their newborns, so the critical attachment between mother and baby does not occur. For some women, postpartum depression can last for years, and the lack of maternal bonding can interfere with children’s development through adolescence. “There's a real need to identify women and treat them, and treat them quickly,” says Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Center for Women’s Mood Disorders. “When mom is not doing well, it becomes a crisis for the whole family at this vulnerable time. But like many issues related to mental health, and specifically women's mental health, it has been neglected.” Despite the frequency of postpartum depression, no treatments specifically target it. Many women who suffer from the condition receive standard antidepressants like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac) but it is unclear how well these drugs work because the neurochemical serotonin may play only a secondary role in postpartum depression or may not be involved at all. Instead, researchers hypothesize that a shift in female reproductive hormones during pregnancy is the main cause. Now a new drug that has gone through late-stage clinical trials aims to correct the consequences of these hormonal changes, and early results in human trials suggest it may be working. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Depression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25337 - Posted: 08.16.2018