About this Research Topic
There are well-reported sex differences in prevalence, symptomatology and course of numerous psychiatric disorders involving the brain. For instance, while women are about twice as likely as men to develop severe depressive episodes during their lifespan, they develop schizophrenic psychoses on average 4-5 years later than men and have a better course of this disease. Yet, the study of sex differences, particularly in the context of women’s health, has been largely neglected in basic and preclinical research. Studies with sex-specific reporting of research findings are warranted to improve clinical outcomes for both men and women.
Despite recent advances in sex-and-gender-based research approaches in both North America and Europe, for instance in form of the “Sex-as-a-biological-variable” NIH initiative, women’s health remains historically understudied. Sex-disaggregated approaches are crucial to study individual differences in clinical symptoms, treatment responses and outcomes in psychiatric illnesses across both sexes. In women, it is important to consider how different hormonal transition phases across the reproductive years (i.e. different phases of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, perimenopause, postmenopause) might influence women’s brain health and clinical outcomes, and how gendered experiences and expectations from patients and health care professionals may drive some of these differences. Establishing a distinct lens for women’s brain health is essential for understanding how sex-specific factors - whether biological or societal - contribute to health in both sexes. These efforts will provide the opportunity to more specifically targeted interventions and improve clinical outcomes for both sexes.
This Research Topic will spotlight sex-disaggregated research to draw attention to this understudied research area including the following points:
• A sex-disaggregated approach must be documented.
• Emphasis is on psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenic psychoses, bipolar or affective disorders. However, studies in healthy populations are also welcome, provided they generate insights in sex differences also important for mental disorders.
• Sex-specific biological factors for example in pharmacodynamics and pharmacogenetics are encouraged.
• Emphasis on how hormonal transition phases (e.g., menstrual cycle phases, pregnancy, menopause) might influence the mental state of women is encouraged.
• Beside sex-specific biological factors, a gendered perspective concerning experiences and expectation from and of patients in the health care systems is encouraged – especially how it might modulate treatment, treatment responses and outcomes.
Keywords: sex, gender, sex-specific biological factors, schizophrenia, bipolar, sex-disaggregated approach, affective disorder
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