Sex differences in learning, motivation, and control of impulses and habits

Both male and female mice are able to learn to associate actions with outcomes, be motivated to work for goals, and to inhibit impulsive and habitual actions that might get in the way of a rewarding goal. However, we find there are substantial differences in how males and females accomplish these tasks, and how effectively they do so.

Because neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder occur far more often in boys than in girls, the neural and molecular mechanisms by which male versus female mice learn, remember, and work for goals will be essential to revealing important male-specific mechanisms contributing to this vulnerability, and/or female-specific mechanisms contributing to their resilience.

 

Image: A laboratory waste container humorously decorated by a former student of mine, Shaila Berlas. 

laboratory waste container decorated by a former student