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Approved Research

Sex, Gender and Brain Health

Principal Investigator: Professor Tomas Paus
Approved Research ID: 75946
Approval date: March 18th 2022

Lay summary

Many complex traits, diseases, and psychiatric disorders are characterized by sex differences, which are likely explained by both biological (i.e., sex) and sociocultural (i.e., gender) factors. While sex is typically treated as categorical, our group has created "sex scores", based on objective measures across many aspects of the brain and body. Thus, the first aim is to examine biological sex as a continuous trait, ranging from "femaleness" to "maleness". Secondly, we will use genetic approaches to capture genetic "femaleness" and "maleness", based on genes associated with traits of interest in each sex. Finally, we seek to understand the influence of sociocultural variables, including gender equality. By assessing the influence of biological, genetic, and sociocultural factors, we can assess the relative importance of each for a given trait. This will enhance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying sex differences across numerous traits and disorders, while uncovering inter-individual variability in sex-biased traits. We expect to complete different elements of this research over a period of three years.

As such, the proposed work will provide novel insights on how sex and gender influence risk of physical and mental illness and, in case of gender, how striving to gender equality might attenuate such risks in certain cases.