“Opinion: Neuroscientists Need to Think about Sex (Bias)”
by Nora Wolcott
The Scientist, October 1, 2021
Subject: Not all biomedical research is becoming more inclusive
To Whom It May Concern,
Across scientific disciplines, the proportion of female animals included in biomedical research has steeply risen in the past decade. Despite this massive progress, almost half of all rodent studies are still conducted solely in male subjects. In this arena, neuroscience is among the worst offenders. In fact, in fields like neuropharmacology the number of female subjects in biomedical trials has decreased almost 10% since 2009.
The misconception at the core of this problem is this: female brains are more variable. However, a recent meta-analysis revealed that male rodents had a significantly higher degree of variability than females in everything from metabolism to morphology. The Scientist has previously had some excellent reporting on gains in inclusivity in biomedical research (see Females Gain Ground as Biomedical Research Subjects), but it is important to showcase the flip side of the coin.
A bit about me: my name is Nora Wolcott and I am a PhD student in the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology department at UC Santa Barbara. As a computational neuroscientist with expertise in neuroendocrinology, I can lend a unique perspective to your readers. My previous work has appeared in Nature Neuroscience and the Journal of Experimental Biology, and our lab recently released a preprint directly addressing sex differences in neuroscience.
Thanks for considering,