Teaching About Sex and Gender in Neuroscience: More Than Meets the “XY”

Kathleen V. Casto, Elizabeth C. Leininger, and Taralyn Tan



Offering courses on the neuroscience of sex and gender can help support an inclusive curriculum in neuroscience.  At the same time, developing and teaching such courses can be daunting to even the most enthusiastic educators, given the subject’s complexities, nuances, and the difficult conversations that it invites.  The authors of this article have all developed and taught such courses from different perspectives.  Our aim is to provide educators with an overview of important conceptual topics as well as a comprehensive, but non-exhaustive, guide to resources for teaching about sex/gender in neuroscience based on our collective experience teaching courses on the topic.  After defining vital terminology and briefly reviewing the biology of sex and sex determination, we describe some common topics within the field and contrast our current nuanced understandings from outdated misconceptions in the field.  We review how (mis)representation of the neuroscience of sex/gender serves as a case study for how scientific results are communicated and disseminated.  We consider how contextualization of sex/gender neuroscience research within a broader historical and societal framework can give students a wider perspective on the enterprise of science.  Finally, we conclude with a brief discussion on how to choose learning goals for your course and implementation notes.