Sex and gender bias in the experimental neurosciences: the case of the maternal immune activation model

Transl Psychiatry. 2019 Feb 14;9(1):90. doi: 10.1038/s41398-019-0423-8.


Recent and rapidly developing movements relating to the increasing awareness and reports of gender bias, discrimination, and abuse have reached the academic environments. The consideration that negative attitudes toward women and abuse of power creates a hostile environment for female scientists, facilitating sexual harassment and driving women out of science, can be easily related to. Rationally inaccessible gender biases are not only evident at the level of the researchers, but are also paralleled by a corresponding imbalance at the level of the research subjects. Here, we focus on the maternal immune activation (MIA) animal model to illustrate exemplarily the current state of ex-/inclusion of female research subjects and the consideration of sex as biological variable in the basic neurosciences. We demonstrate a strong sex disparity with a major emphasis on male animals in studies examining behavioral and neurochemical alterations in MIA offspring. We put forward the hypothesis that this neglect of female subjects in basic research may stem from a hard-wired sex/gender bias, which may also be reflected in a similar attitude toward female scientists. We suggest exploring the possibility that by dismantling sex bias and male dominance in basic research one would get an additional handle on favorably modifying the perception and appreciation for women in science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attitude
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Animal*
  • Neurosciences*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / immunology*
  • Sexism*
  • Sexual Harassment