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The biology of gender, from DNA to the brain | Karissa Sanbonmatsu

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How exactly does gender work? It's not just about our chromosomes, says biologist Karissa Sanbonmatsu. In a visionary talk, she shares new discoveries from epigenetics, the emerging study of how DNA activity can permanently change based on social factors like trauma or diet. Learn how life experiences shape the way genes are expressed — and what that means for our understanding of gender.

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23 Comments on The biology of gender, from DNA to the brain | Karissa Sanbonmatsu

  1. Twighlight Gaming // 11th February 2019 at 7:04 pm // Reply

    i identify as a human, sadly.

  2. Discover Your Awesomeness // 11th February 2019 at 7:05 pm // Reply

    *Understand that half the game is keeping quiet, and carefully watching those around you. %*

  3. She’s saying good stuff no doubt, but she doesnt use the word man anywhere, she even mentions female before saying neuroscientists, why do you have to do that! Its fine dear we arent misogynists, you dont need a front that extreme! edit:(Oh damn her knowledge is lit tho)

  4. Loved this.

  5. Blind Girl Gaming // 11th February 2019 at 7:18 pm // Reply

    Contents awesome, Yoda impression, epic 🙂

  6. 11:32 I heard somewhere, that even after transition that statistic doesn’t change. Which is horrible.

    • It does, actually! Transitioning decreases suicide rates; however, the suicide rates are still higher than the average human.

      When society/culture becomes more accepting of Transgenders, then the suicide rate will drop even further. The major factors include gender based victimization, discrimination, violence, bullying, rejection from family, friends, and community; ill-treatment and discrimination at health-care system; harassment by partner, family, police and public. All these factors contribute greatly towards these suicide rates. Transitioning can alleviate some of these issues, but not all of them.

    • +Avenger Valid points; I’m oddly (perhaps morbidly, in a way) curious to see how people’s treatment of me will change as my medical transition progresses.
      Also, *transgender people, not transgenders. Vocab matters.

  7. Interesting concept, but too much gender things mixed into this lecture, I would love to see this lecture with Mrs Karissa as a lecturer but purely from neuroscience and genetics standpoint.

  8. Watch the whole video. Dont be a jabroni.

  9. Excellent talk! Kinda wish there was some info on nonbinary people and how our biology works out, but this is still really cool info.

    Also, I refuse to read the comments bc I can smell the transphobia brewing as I type. :p

  10. The study of how DNA activity can permanently change based on social factors like trauma or diet? Super interesting. It’s a shame that so many people are going to dismiss it entirely because they added the word “gender” to the title….
    Classic outrage culture.

  11. Stephanie Elizabeth Mann // 11th February 2019 at 7:39 pm // Reply

    Fantastic. I, too, am transgender. This talk is well spoken and well presented. Yoda would breath a sigh of contentment.

  12. Amazing talk

  13. Half of TED’s views are just here to dislke these days. Still adds to the engagement in analytics tho

  14. I really would have liked to have heard more about the gender/brain differences, differences in development etc. This seemed too scattered and “fluffy”.

    The modern interpretation of gender is roughly the expression of how a person feels most comfortable expressing themselves and identifying as that gender somewhere along the gender spectrum. For that purpose I will address individuals born with xx chromosomes as female and xy as male. The comment about math is partly true although males and females on average are equally capable of solving math and logic based problems the bell curves of males is wider than the bell curve for females. The extremes for males extend further than the extremes for females, so there are more males capable of understanding the highest level of mathematics than there are females. on the flip side there are more males completely incapable of understanding the most basics of mathematics than there are females. so it goes both ways men tend to be more spread out along the curve of mathematics understanding.

    As to the question what makes a woman a woman? my answer would be “If the patches of the brain determine your gender, but the patches can be influenced and changed by external forces then there seems to me to be very little consistency and very great variance in what these parts are. So trying to claim that you can prove your gender based on something that is varying and inconsistent in your own head never mind the billions of other people in this world, is lacking in a stable roots.” How we define things matters and making gender a spectrum means that 99.999% of people will not land on the absolute end of spectrum man or women.

    As a scientist you should not care what people think of you but more of what they think of you work and theories. if you have credible work you will be given credit.

    PS: the Yoda vice was good, but he would not say “a Jedi mouse must feel the force flow” he would say something more along the lines of “the flow of force, a Jedi mouse must feel”

    I wish you the best of luck with your studies and future talks. thumbs up for open talking and listening about issues and not just yelling declarative statements.

  16. I always figured something like this theory was the case. It’s logical to think that something is causing problems between when the genitals are formed and when the brain is formed. People are pretty accurate in determining what’s wrong. People are literally telling us that their genitals don’t match there body. Based on this research it’s starting to look like that might actually be the case. However, I understand we’ll need more research to confirm this.

  17. i gladly accept transgender people!
    buuuut, its just so annoying when in a talk about the DNA and biology of gender she goes off on a tangent on how she felt on her first outing and how many transgender people attempt suicide.
    if she just would have stuck to her topic and her studies i would have liked her talk much more.

    • But her personal experience surely is the key reason she takes such a personal interest in the topic? From the sound of it her research is trying to find out the why and how of who she is, there’s nothing irrelevant about that to me

  18. Just for the record, what she said about body cells constantly breaking down and being replaced is true for most of the body, but this varies between cell types, and does not apply to the brain. Brand new neurons (brain and nervous cells) do grow from neural stem cells throughout childhood, but this stops by adulthood outside of a few specific regions of the brain, and fully-formed neurons do not divide at all in humans. Hence why things like brain damage, paralysis from spinal injuries, and destruction of nerves are pretty much always permanent.

    Also, her claim that male and female brains are different is not technically untrue depending on how you define “different,” since there are a few particular parts of the brain that are larger or smaller on average in men versus women. Emphasis on “on average” though. The vast majority of people exhibit a highly varied patchwork of so called “male” and “female” brain characteristics, to the point that even calling these traits male and female is completely arbitrary and not a strong basis for categorization at all. The physiological differences between biologically male, female, and intersex individuals are readily apparent, but the brain is clearly not the source of them.

    Basically, the epigenetics that Dr. Sanbonmatsu mentions is a very real scientific field that is transforming the way we understand the workings of DNA and how it determines many aspects of our (and other animals’) biology, but implying that it serves as an explanation for gender dysphoria is a bit of a stretch that way oversimplifies both epigenetics and the psychological workings of how we form our identities.

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