Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Authors' Response
Fitch & Denenberg: Sexual differentiation of the brain

Default is not in the female, but in the theory

Roslyn Holly Fitch a1 and Victor H. Denenberg a1
a1 Biobehavioral Sciences Graduate Degree Program, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-4154


A number of commentators agree that the evidence reviewed in the target article supports a previously unrecognized role for ovarian hormones in feminization of the brain. Others question this view, suggesting that the traditional model of sexual differentiation already accounts for ovarian influence. This position is supported by various reinterpretations of the data presented (e.g., ovarian effects are secondary to the presence/absence of androgen, ovarian effects are smaller than testicular effects, ovarian effects are not organizational). We discuss these issues, and reiterate our position that evidence of neurobehavioral ovarian effects is incompatible with the currently accepted model of sexual differentiation. Other points regarding species generalizations, the direct versus indirect action of estrogen, and nonhormonal mechanisms of sexual differentiation are also discussed. Finally, we address the controversial issue of using ratio scores in the assessment of the human corpus callosum (where CC scores are divided by an index of brain size). Future applications to human research are also discussed.