Friday, February 19, 2016

"She probably thinks Mattel has brainwashed male rhesus monkeys into liking toy trucks."

Sex and the Brain | West Hunter: "I just noticed an new article in PNAS – research by Daphna Joel a behavioral neuroscientist at Tel Aviv University. Using MRI, she concludes that the brains of men and women aren’t really different. She suggests that the notion that men and women behave differently may be a myth. She is, of course, utterly full of shit...

We know of many sex differences in the brain – not just volume, not just the fraction of gray matter vs white matter, not just big differences in the incidences of neuropsychiatric disorders like autism and anorexia nervosa. In a few cases (like CAH, or androgen sensitivity, or maybe Turner’s syndrome) we know something about the developmental mechanisms involved. We see analogous differences in animal models: and no, it’s not culture. If you want to determine a brain’s sex from MRI data (without cheating by looking at the Y chromosome) you build a statistical discriminator – you don’t create a continuum of “femaleness” to “maleness,” for the entire brain and score every individual region-by-region to find out where they fall on that male-to-female continuum. 

Moreover, similarity in gross anatomy does not ensure similar behavioral tendencies. If I compared the brain of a pit bull with that of a similar-sized border collie, I doubt if I could see the behavioral differences in the size of the amygdala or whatever. Those behavioral differences exist, they’re innate, they have a physical/genetic basis – but at the moment I couldn’t tell you what brain differences to look for. Could be differences in the distribution of neurotransmitter receptors, or differences in axon length, or dendrite connectivity – lots of things, including many that wouldn’t show up on MRI. Many couldn’t be seen by Ramón y Cajal. As for her expertise on behavioral differences between men and women – she’s a maroon. Reminds me of John Money, and his crap about how you have to learn to be a boy or a girl. Which he knew was false (David Reimer). She probably thinks Mattel has brainwashed male rhesus monkeys into liking toy trucks."

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