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date: 03 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Generating distinctly male or female brains during early development is a monumental process that forever modifies behavior. Relatively straightforward theories involving perinatal exposure to gonadal hormones have historically been used to explain the generation of sex-typical traits. These tenets are of great heuristic value, but are unable to explain much of sexual differentiation. By examining events leading to sexual dimorphism of some well-studied neural structures (medial preoptic area, medial amygdala, ventromedial hypothalamus), and some social behaviors these structures mediate (play, maternal behavior, copulation), it is clear that sexual differentiation is anything but simple. Instead, it is an active process in both sexes, requires hormonal as well as nonhormonal events, extends beyond early development, and occurs differently across mammalian species.

Keywords: male brains, female brains, perinatal, gonadal hormones, sexual differentiation, sexual dimorphism, medial preoptic area, medial amygdala, ventromedial hypothalamus

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