Webinar Review: Sex differences and structural brain development during puberty

Over the course of the semester, our trainees are reviewing webinars in their given fields and preparing abstracts to help colleagues outside their discipline make an informed choice about watching them. As our program bridges diverse disciplines, these abstracts are beneficial for our own group in helping one another gain key knowledge in each other’s fields. We are happy to share these here for anyone else who may find them helpful.

Sex differences and structural brain development during puberty

Megan M. Herting, PhD

Assistant Professor of Preventative Medicine, University of Southern California

February 23, 2021

Neuroscience Program UIUC

Watch the video on the University of Southern California website >>

Jennifer WaltersAnalysis by Jennifer Walters:

Dr. Herting gave a fantastic virtual seminar discussing structural brain development during puberty using MRI neuroimaging, as well as highlighting seminal works in this field. Though my own work does focus on sex differences resulting from a potential antiseizure therapeutic, this webinar also would be of interest to anyone fascinated with neural changes across human development and neurodevelopmental differences between the sexes.

Her presentation portrays a holistic view of the human literature, as well as some peripheral information using animal studies to fill some missing gaps. For instance, Herting dives into the correlations between testosterone levels and their potential impact on amygdala development in both boys and girls. However, the correlations they draw (testosterone has a completely different influence on the developing amygdala in girls compared to boys) is not backed up by anything available in the human literature, but can be found in a prominent study conducted on a murine model. It was also fascinating to hear about the overall developmental differences in the brain comparatively – males have greater brain structure variability in general, and testosterone are associated with higher rates of myelination/white matter density. What most piqued my interest was when Herting showed that high levels of etradiol had a clear impact on the “pruning” process of gray matter – dramatically increased levels of estradiol almost appeared to inhibit or stagnate this process.

In terms of deliverance, I actually really enjoyed this speaker’s presentation style and use of concise imagery throughout the hour-long seminar. I appreciated that she provided a solid foundation in terms of background knowledge and information that was pertinent to understanding her initial hypothesis, as well as her later findings. Her cadence was steady and easy to follow, and she managed to even stay engaged with her audience in a poised and fluid way (which I personally think can be quite difficult to accomplish in a virtual presentation). Overall, I thought it was  great webinar and highly recommend it.