Male and Female Behavior Deconstructed

ScienceDaily (Feb. 2, 2012) — Hormones shape our bodies, make us fertile, excite our most basic urges, and as scientists have known for years, they govern the behaviors that separate men from women. But how?

Now a team of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has uncovered many genes influenced by the male and female sex hormones testosterone and estrogen that, in turn, govern several specific types of male and female behaviors in mice.

The UCSF team selectively turned many of these genes off one by one and found they could manipulate individual behaviors in the mice, like their sex drive, desire to pick fights, or willingness to spend extra time caring for their young.

“It’s as if you can deconstruct a social behavior into genetic components,” said Nirao Shah, MD, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Anatomy at UCSF who led the research, which is published in the 2/3/12 issue of the journal Cell. “Each gene regulates a few components of a behavior without affecting other aspects of male and female behavior.

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Categories: gender, Genetics, Health, Research

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