New Brain Research Explores Intersection of Male Biology and Behavior
Scientists investigate implications of both genes and environmental experience
CHICAGO — Scientists presented research on the spectrum of male behavior, physiology, and susceptibility to disease. In particular, new findings provide a better understanding of the full range of male behavior, from fatherhood, nurturing, and fairness on the one hand, to aggression, selfishness, and dominance on the other.
New findings presented at Neuroscience 2009, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health, offer new insights into male behavior. They support the idea that many gender differences lie in the brain and are influenced by both genes and environment.
Specifically, research released today shows that:
• Testosterone not only reduces generosity but also increases the likelihood that men will punish others for being selfish (Karen Redwine, abstract 371.1, see attached summary).
• The “winner effect” — the increased ability to win new fights after previous victories — may be due to changes in the brain caused by the victories, according to a new animal study. Previous research could not explain why some species exhibit the winner effect and others do not (Matthew Fuxjager, abstract 377.7, see attached summary).
• Animal research shows that how a father cares for his young is shaped by the care he received as an infant and, conversely, animals raised by inadequate fathers grew up to be inadequate fathers themselves. These findings suggest that the paternal care received during development may shape the amount and quality of paternal behavior (Erin Gleason, abstract 571.18, see attached summary).
Other recent research findings being discussed at the meeting show that:
• Both X and Y genes have intrinsic sex-specific effects on the brain, influencing brain function, behavior, and susceptibility to disease (Arthur Arnold, PhD, see attached speaker’s summary).
• Father-deprived animals were more likely to suffer from abnormal decision-making, emotion, and reward functions, as well as impulsivity and aggression (Anna Katharina Braun, PhD, abstract 120.4, see attached speaker’s summary).
“Differences in genes, gender, and environment make the brain of each animal unique, including humans,” said press conference moderator Margaret M. McCarthy, PhD, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, an expert in the development of sex differences in the brain. “Insight into the male brain is vital to improve our understanding of emotions, relationships and behavior, as well as those diseases and disorders that predominately affect men and boys.”
This research was supported by national funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, as well as private and philanthropic organizations.
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