Is it possible to differentiate biological sex from other factors that can influence the brain, like culture or life experiences? Is sex a simple binary variable or a complex interplay of several factors? To which extent are brain functions affected by sex hormones? Can it be ethically justified to only study homogenous groups when diagnosing and treating diseases, if that means neglecting human diversity? Which intersections of sex with further diversity traits should be considered, especially for neurodegenerative diseases?
These are some of the questions that arise when exploring diversity in brain research, which were discussed last week in the webinar “Diversity in brain research: Does it matter?” by the Diversity in Research Paper Awards (DIRPA) winners Sanne Peters and Yi Zhang together with invited speakers Lutz Jäncke and Frances Quevenco.
The HBP honours excellent scientific achievements which consider diversity traits in neuroscience and related fields. HBP Scientific Director Katrin Amunts moderated the event and explained: "The HBP’s Diversity and Equal Opportunity Committee wanted to encourage everyone in the Human Brain Project and in the European, US and other communities to address this research question with scientific tools, and to highlight two papers that did it in a particularly impressive way".
More than 160 people registered for the event and participants from 46 different countries were part of the event, sharing their positive feedback: Participants underlined the need for “diversity in brain research” and encouraged more similar events and workshops, enabling an open dialogue for related research designs and practices.
Links to the papers
- Sanne Peters et al. (2020): “Sex differences in the association between major risk factors and the risk of stroke in the UK Biobank cohort study”
- Yi Zhang et al. (2021): “The Human Brain Is Best Described as Being on a Female/Male Continuum: Evidence from a Neuroimaging Connectivity Study”
- Lutz Jäncke (2018): “Sex/gender differences in cognition, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy”
- Frances Quevenco (2021): “Proportion of Women and Reporting of Outcomes by Sex in Clinical Trials for Alzheimer Disease”