Genetic and neural control of sexually dimorphic behaviors


May 7, 2015 - 12:00pm
NW B103
About the Speaker
Nirao Shah (UCSF)

What mechanisms control instinctual displays of sexually dimorphic behaviors and allow them to
adapt to social context and experience? What mechanisms control social attachments? My lab
uses mice, flies, and prairie voles to address these questions. Despite their fundamental
importance to social interactions in health and neuro-psychiatric disorders, the molecular and
neural mechanisms underlying sex-differences in behaviors remain mysterious. To tackle this
long-standing problem, we leverage the fact that sex hormones regulate sexual differentiation of
the brain during development and adulthood to control sex-typical behaviors. Thus, identifying
sex hormone-responsive neurons and genes should allow us to access the underlying
mechanisms. We have used this strategy and developed sensitive genetic reagents to make
significant discoveries about how sex hormones regulate neural circuits controlling sex-typical
behaviors. We have built upon these findings to identify and link sex hormone-responsive genes
and neural pathways to specific sexually dimorphic behaviors. My lab has also initiated
inquiries into the related issues of control of social interactions during speciation and social
attachment behaviors. I will present our findings related to these ongoing research directions.