Exploring Sex and Gender Issues in Neuroimaging Research: Insights from Science to Society

Hyang Woon Lee, MD, PhD Organizer
Professor of Neurology, Ewha Womans University School of Medicine
Computational Medicine, System Health Science & Engineering Graduate Program
Korea, Republic of
Randy Gollub, MD, PhD Co Organizer
Professor of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Psychiatric Neuroimaging Program and A.A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging
Boston, MA 
United States
Wednesday, Jun 26: 3:45 PM - 5:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom 101-102 
The exploration of sex and gender differences in neuroimaging research has become an important and timely topic in the scientific community, although this topic has not yet received sufficient attention dedicated to education. Given the increasing awareness of how brain structure and function differ by sex and gender, researchers are now compelled to integrate these variables into their studies. The relevance of this issue is highlighted by recent mandates from funding agencies emphasizing the imperative inclusion of sociodemographic factors, particularly sex and gender, in biomedical research. Advances in human brain mapping demand a thorough understanding of how these variables impact neural processes to allow for more comprehensive and accurate interpretations. This not only aligns with a broader commitment to diversity and inclusivity in the OHBM, but also holds significant implications for enhancing diagnostic and therapeutic interventions for neurological and psychiatric disorders. The ongoing discussions on sex and gender in neuroimaging research are poised to yield valuable insights, catalyzing a shift toward more nuanced and gender-sensitive approaches. Desired learning outcomes from this exploration include:
1. An enhanced understanding of the meaning and implications of sex and gender in neuroimaging research,
2. Increased ability to critically evaluate research designs through a gendered point of view,
3. Proficiency in incorporating these variables into scientific discourse.
Ultimately, such knowledge is crucial for advancing neuroscientific understanding and fostering a more inclusive and effective approach to neuroimaging and/or neuroscience research.


1. Participants will understand of training and career trajectories of representative women leaders from different areas including academia, publication, and government agencies.
2. Participants will develop a comprehensive understanding of how diverse sociodemographic factors influence brain and behavior.
3. Participants will learn about inclusive research practices they can implement in their participant recruitment, data acquisition, and data analysis to facilitate the engagement and participation of more diverse populations in their neuroimaging research studies.

Target Audience

This symposium will address the importance of considering sociodemographic influences on the brain and behavior, making it of broad interest to a diverse set of human brain mapping researchers, including clinicians, neuroscientists, and psychologists. Any OHBM members who self-identifies as women, trainees who self-identify as women, and those of other genders who support the goals of the Women Faculty SIG are especially encouraged to attend this symposium. 


1. Introduction to Sex/Gender Disparities in Brain Function and Neurological Disorders

This talk sets the stage for exploring the complex interactions between sex/gender and brain function, particularly as they relate to neurological disorders. Acknowledging sex/gender disparities in neuroscience research and brain disease manifestations is essential to understand these gaps for advancement of comprehensive research and precision medicine. This highlights the need for comprehensive research initiatives to elucidate the complex mechanisms underlying sex/sex-specific brain function and neurological disorders. By exploring these complexities, this session aims to illuminate the multifaceted nature of sex/gender gaps in brain health and pave the way for more integrated interventions by professionals across diverse sectors of society. 


Hyang Woon Lee, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology, Ewha Womans University School of Medicine
Computational Medicine, System Health Science & Engineering Graduate Program
Korea, Republic of

2. Sex and Gender Issues in Human Brain Research – Enhancing Excellence of Neuroscience

Neuroscientific research has long overlooked the relevance of sex and gender in understanding the biological mechanisms underpinning cognitive processes and diseases. In this talk, Dr. Howells will provide some background to this, and examples of the way in which consideration of these aspects has led to advanced insights into brain function. She will discuss the role journals play in promoting inclusive research and increasing transparency, and present some recent initiatives intended to improve reporting on sex and gender in research studies. 


Henrietta Howells, PhD, Senior Editor, Nature Neuroscience
Springer Nature Publisher
United Kingdom

3. How Neurodegeneration Differs between Men and Women

It has long been known that the incidences of different neurodegenerative diseases differ by sex. However, the majority of past imaging literature on neurodegenerative do not explicitly study sex-related differences. In this talk, I will present some recent perspectives on the role of sex in risk for Alzheimer’s disease, in brain degeneration due to obesity and to normal aging. These findings highlight the need to better understand sex differences in the neurodegenerative process, and emphasize the importance of incorporating sex-dependence in current and future studies of mechanisms of neurodegeneration. 


Jean Chen, PhD, University of Toronto
Professor of Medical Biophysics and Biomedical Engineering
Toronto, Ontario 

4. Shaping Equitable Brain Research: Policy and Sex/Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA)

This presentation explores the role of research policy in promoting Sex- and Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA) within brain research. We'll open with an overview of SGBA principles and their significance to the field. Following this, we'll delve into a policy analysis for integrating SGBA throughout the brain research encompassing funding opportunities and research conduct. The presentation concludes by emphasizing the importance of international collaboration and knowledge sharing among researchers. By fostering these connections, we can collectively promote effective SGBA integration and cultivate a more equitable brain research landscape. 


Heisook Lee, PhD, President of the Korea Center for Gendered Innovations for Science and Technology Research (GiSTER), Seoul,
Korea, Republic of

5. The Future of Personalized Diagnosis and Treatment for Brain Diseases

This talk discusses the importance of personalized medicine in neuromodulation treatment of brain diseases, taking into account a sex/gender perspective. This lecture will cover how brain stimulation technology for personalized medicine is developed based on previous research results on neural oscillations in both healthy and people with various brain diseases such as epilepsy and depression. It will also describe multimodal brain imaging with simultaneous EEG-fMRI and brain state dependence of plasticity and learning to provide optimized diagnosis and treatment for individual patients. 


Petra Ritter, Charité University Medicine Berlin and Berlin Institute of Health
Professor of Neurology, Brain Stimulation Section