The Laboratory of Nirao Shah

Discovering how genes, neurons, and experience regulate gender differences in behavior

We are interested in understanding the biological basis of physiological and behavioral differences between men and women.  The neural networks that generate such differences between the two sexes are poorly understood.  The brain responds to sensory information from the world as well as internal states such as past experience and sex hormones to generate appropriate responses to the world.  Accordingly, our research is aimed at discovering the molecular and neural networks whereby these external and internal signals drive sex differences in physiology and behavior.

Our research findings will advance understanding of the biological underpinnings of gender. 

They also have important implications for many common neurological and psychiatric disorders that show startling sex differences.  For example, autism is 4-5 fold more common in boys than girls whereas PTSD is more common in women compared to men.  Similar significant sex differences exist in other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia.  By identifying how the brain normally develops and functions to be different between men and women, we are uncovering pathways whose disruption may underlie differential susceptibility or resilience to disease.  These pathways provide new therapeutic targets that could in the future help prevent or treat these devastating illnesses.

Artwork: Liz Unger

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Our work is advancing understanding of the profound sex differences in resilience and susceptibility to neurodegenerative and psychiatric illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and PTSD. Your support is greatly appreciated and will go directly to fund our research studies.  Please click on this link if you would like to support our research.