Medical Science

Why sex matters in the study of the brain health: investigating the role of gender, sex hormones and their impact in disease, brain plasticity and behavior
Liisa Galea, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia

As anyone who has undergone puberty, pregnancy or menopause can attest, hormones can exert powerful effects on the mind and body. My interests lie in understanding the potent effects of sex hormones (androgens and estrogens) on behavior and in the brain. In particular I am interested in how sex and sex hormones influence cognition, emotional behaviours and, brain cell birth (neurogenesis). There are numerous sex differences in disease incidence; for example, depression and Alzheimer’s disease is more common in females. Furthermore, sex hormones can alter the effectiveness of therapies used to treat these gender-related diseases. It is vital, therefore, to understand how sex hormones interact with the male and female brain to influence health. Experiments in my laboratory examine the influence of sex hormones to modulate neurogenesis in the adult brain. Contrary to popular belief, new brain cells are produced in adults. These new brain cells are confined to certain regions of the brain, including the hippocampus, and are implicated in diseases that involve brain cell loss such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression. Understanding how new brain cells in this area are regulated by hormones may lead to new therapeutic pathways for diseases that involve brain cell loss. Research from my laboratory has shown that there are sex differences in the production of these new brain cells. Estrogen alters the production and survival of these new cells in the hippocampus of adult female, but not male, rodents. Testosterone enhances the survival of new cells in the hippocampus of male rodents. I aim to elucidate the gender-specific mechanisms controlling the hormone-induced changes in neuronal birth which may ultimately lead to ways of inducing neurogenesis to repair or replace lost cells in the gender-related diseases that involve neuron loss.

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Medical Science

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  • Prügivedu

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