J. Bakker's team
For longtime, it has been ideologically fashionable to insist that any behavioral difference between men and women is minimal and is the consequence of variations in experiences during development before and after adolescence. Hence, in both human and animal research, males were chosen traditionally as research subject because their hormone levels do not vary cyclically as in females, and findings obtained in males were automatically translated to females. This ignorance of any sex effects led for instance to “overdosing” sleep medication in women. It turned out that the drug’s active ingredient zolpidem is broken down slower in women than in men. Since they took the same dose of the drug as men, they woke up with more of it still being present in their body, leading to an increased risk of adverse events the next day. Fortunately, the concept that sex matters, is gaining ground, although there are still some movements continuing to ignore the presence of sex differences in the brain and behavior, with as main argument that it could lead to sex discrimination.
We believe that studying sex differences in the brain and in particularly the origin of these sex differences are crucial in elucidating the mechanisms underlying various neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, autism, schizophrenia, etc., which all show sex differences. Thus it is essential to increase our understanding of the genetic and neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying the sexual differentiation of the brain in order to find potential therapeutical targets for curing these brain diseases. In our research we use a unique combination of transgenic mouse models with neuroimaging techniques and postmortem analyses.
We have focused on three major questions:
1) development of the neural circuits underlying sexual behaviors in mice
2) the role of olfaction and olfactory neurogenesis in reproductive behavior in mice
3) the sexual differentiation of the human brain
For more details, see under research.