Intersectional Analysis of the Sexed/Gendered Brain

2 - 6 March 2020

Venue: Lorentz Center@Oort

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This workshop is organized by members of the NeuroGenderings Network.


Neuroscience plays a powerful role in our understanding of human differences, not least those related to sex, gender, and sexuality. Observations of neural correlates of gender are often interpreted as being caused by predetermined biological differences. News coverage of these interpretations of scientific data are often accompanied by illustrations depicting ‘the female brain’ or ‘the male brain’, and as these images circulate widely, the reality and significance of such differences appears to become more entrenched. This informs both popular opinion and public policy. For example, notions of fundamental biological differences have recently been suggested by legal experts to be used as a justification for treating women and men differently in legal settings - from sentencing in criminal law cases to legitimizing inequality in schools and the workplace (Dickerson 2018).                                                                

Scholars from the humanities have collaborated with neuroscientists to critically examine the body of neuroscientific research that purports to find essential sex/gender differences in the human brain, and together, these scholars have revealed conceptual and methodological flaws that hinder scientific progress. For example, the malleability of the brain, while broadly accepted in other areas of neuroscientific research, is systematically ignored when the origins of neural sex differences are being assessed. Methods that take neuroplasticity into account (e.g. longitudinal designs, diversity-based designs, incorporating socio-environmental variables like gender socialization) are under-used in studies of the neuroscience of sex and gender. The lack of impact of these scientifically and sociologically-informed methodological recommendations on the field clearly demonstrates the need for further interdisciplinary discourse about the roles and responsibilities of neuroscience in society and the implementation of improved research practices in experimental design.                        

Rebecca Jordan-Young (2014) has remarked that so far, this conversation has ‘largely failed to integrate race, class, and nation in thinking about sex, gender, sexuality and brains’ (see also Kuria 2014). Feminist analyses from within neurosciences (Roy 2008) have demonstrated that attending to the interplay of various kinds of differences (i.e. to intersectionality) is of fundamental importance if we want to do justice to the plurality of human experience and if we want to avoid the reification of categories. Intersectionality is an analytic framework for examining how various social identities, including race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability status are interwoven and impact each other. The aim of this workshop is therefore to advance the interdisciplinary conversation surrounding sex/gender and the brain by integrating the notion of intersectionality more deeply into the field. Relatedly, we will discuss the current state of our research community in terms of diversity and inclusivity, and develop strategies for improvement.  


Cited sources

Dickerson, Laura (2018). “ASU Law explores legal implications of differences in women’s, men’s brains”. ASU Now: Access, Excellence, Impact. Retrieved from

Jordan-Young, Rebecca (2014). “Fragments for the Future: Tensions and New Directions from ‘NeuroCultures-NeuroGenderings II’”. In: Gendered Neurocultures. Feminist and Queer Perspectives on Current Brain Discourses (Ed. Sigrid Schmitz & Grit Höppner), Zaglossus Press (373-393).

Kuria, Emily Ngubia (2014). “Theorizing Race(ism) While NeuroGendering”.   In: Gendered Neurocultures. Feminist and Queer Perspectives on Current Brain Discourses (Ed. Sigrid Schmitz & Grit Höppner), Zaglossus Press (109-123).

Roy, D. (2008). “Asking different questions: Feminist practices for the natural sciences.” Hypatia, 23(4), 134-156.


Workshop aims                                                                     

1. Discuss ethical, conceptual and methodological challenges and best practices for intersectional analyses of the sexed/gendered brains

2. Develop a roadmap for future directions of the research community. This roadmap covers research practices as well as strategies to expand diversity and inclusivity within our community

3. Make significant progress in the production of an academic reader in which the current state of intersectional analyses of the sexed/gendered brain, as well as future directions, are laid out for a broad scholarly audience (see below)



The organizers plan to publish an academic reader in which the current state of intersectional analyses of the sexed/gendered brain, as well as future directions, are laid out for a broad scholarly audience. This publication will be based on, but not necessarily limited to, work presented during the workshop as well as work developed as a result of the workshop.

Our confirmed speakers are:

·      Deboleena Roy holds a joint faculty position as Professor and Chair of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Professor of Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University. She is also Associate Faculty in the Neuroscience Program, Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Emory. Starting August 1st, 2020, she will serve as the new Senior Associate Dean of Faculty for Emory College of Arts and Sciences. Roy advocates for the development of feminist practices that contribute to scientific inquiry in the lab. Her fields of interest include feminist theory, feminist science and technology studies, neuroscience, molecular biology, postcolonial theory, and reproductive justice movements. Her book Molecular Feminisms: Biology, Becomings, and Life in the Lab (2018) was published by the University of Washington Press.

·       Ashley Baccus-Clark is a Molecular and Cellular Biologist and multidisciplinary artist who uses new media and storytelling to explore themes of deep learning, cognition, memory, trauma, and systems of belief, within the framework of intersectionality. She is the Director of Research at Hyphen-Labs, an international team of engineers, scientists, architects, and artists who recently created ‘NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism’, a virtual reality project that was screened at Sundance, the American Film Institute, and Tribeca Film Festival, among others. Her work has been profiled at the New Yorker, the New York Times, Vice, TechCrunch, NPR, and Variety.

·       Laverne Camille Melón is a Neuroendocrinologist and Behavioral Neuroscientist with a research focus on addiction, mechanisms of depression and neuroplasticity associated with pregnancy. Laverne’s development as an intersectional scholar began early with mentorship and training in Gender studies and Behavioral Neuroscience. Laverne recently began her tenure as an Assistant Professor of Biology and Neuroscience at Wesleyan University. Her new lab takes a critical approach to answering questions concerning the impact of drugs and hormones on adult neuroplasticity.  Laverne also writes and speaks on the importance of inclusive teaching strategies for the future of ethical scholarship in Biology TITLE:  Don’t you wait! Constructing my intersectional feminist approach to sex as a biological variable in Translational Neuroscience


    Monday 2 March

    09.30-10.00 Coffee and registration
    10.00-10.15 Welcome & practical introduction by Lorentz staff
    10.15-10.30 Opening: introduction of the workshop aims by the organizers
    10.30-12.00 Keynote lecture: Deboleena Roy

    12.00-13.30 Lunch@Oort restaurant

    13.30-14.30 Work in progress presentations (parallel sessions)

    *Session A: Heather Shattuck-Heidorn - Operationalizing intersectionality in the life sciences: Is the challenge finding a method or keeping the        Theory?Tabea Cornel - Is Left-Handedness to Right-Handedness as Female Is to Male?

    Chair: Anelis Kaiser

    *Session B: Vanessa A. Bentley - The limited potential of IRBs to protect marginalized communities
    Aleksandra Derra - The Society for Neuroscience activity through the lenses of Neurocultures Manifesto
    Chair: Josien de Bie
    14.30-15.00 Coffee Break

    15.00-16.00 Work in progress presentations (parallel sessions)

    *Session A: Lindsey Thurston - Structural neuroimaging differences informed by sex hormones: Making space for sex/gender diversity
    Sarah Burke - Hypothalamic volume changes across adolescence in relation to gender identity and hormonal status
    Chair: Cynthia Kraus

    *Session B: Valerie Ambrosi - Neurofeedback-Mediated Modulation of Neural Correlates of Gender Stereotype Threat
    Hannah Fitsch - Mathematization of perception in brain research methods and the problem of categorization
    Chair: Anelis Kaiser

    16.00-17.00 Plenary discussion (focus: what are our main concerns?)
    17.00 Wine & cheese welcome party with performance by Josien de Bie

    Tuesday 3 March

    09.00-10.30      Keynote lecture: Ashley Baccus-Clark

    10.30-11.00      Coffee break

    11.00-12.30      Work in progress presentations Eric Casseles - Neuroscientific studies on gender identity, Sigrid Schmitz - An intersectional perspective for the neurosciences and neuropolitics of posthumanities, Annelies Kleinherenbrink & Victoria Mohr – Gendered representations of risk and responsibility in online discourse surrounding Alzheimer’s disease

    12.30-14.00      Lunch@restaurant  OR “This week’s Discoveries” with Rebecca Jordan-Young

    14.00-15.30      Plenary roundtable: trans/queer-gender intersectionality

    15.30-16.00      Coffee break

    16.00-17.00      Plenary discussion (focus: future directions for research and community)

    Wednesday 4 March

    9.00-10.00  Tutorial Lise Eliot - Time to dump the “dimorphism:” A tutorial synthesis of the MRI literature

    10.00-11.00 tutorial Giordana Grossi - In search of a new language: Reconceptualizing and reworking

    claims of origins

    11.00-11.30 coffee break

    11.30-12.30 Flora Lysen & Antye Guenther – Performance lecture “Madness is a Strange Color”


    12.30-13.30 Lunch@Oortrestaurant


    13.30-14.30 tutorial Daphna Joel - Rethinking sex and the brain beyond the binary: Mosaic brains in a multi-dimensional space

    14.30-15.00 coffee break

    15.00-16.00 plenary: Plenary discussion (focus: planning break out sessions on day 4)

    16.00-17.00 Film screening Toxic Masculinity by Sunny Bergman

    17.30 Departure to workshop dinner

    18:00-22:00 Workshop dinner at the boat

    22:00 Departure to Central Station Leiden / Hotel / Lorentz Center

    Thursday 5 March

    09.30-10.00 Coffee
    10.00-12.00 Break out sessions (small groups can hold discussions, incorporate feedback on
    presented work in progress, collaborate on new research plans, network, etc.)

    12.00-13.30 Lunch@Oort restaurant

    13.30-15.00 Break out sessions continued
    15:00-15.30 Coffee break
    15.30-17.00 Plenary discussion (focus: key issues so far and future directions)

    Friday 5 March

    09:00-10.00 Coffee, sign-up for book raffle for junior scholars
    10.00-10.45 Roadmap session (finalization of topics, timeline, division of tasks, website)
    10.45-11.15 Coffee break
    11.15-12.00 Roadmap session continued

    12.00-13.00 Lunch@Oort restaurant

    13.00-15.00 Concluding session:

    o Roundtable discussion with keynote speakers (moderator: Rebecca Jordan-Young)
    o Summary of Future Directions Roadmap
    o Presentation of plans for publication of reader, as well as any additional projects
    developed during the workshop
    15.00-15.30 Book raffle for junior scholars, parting words
    15.30 Conference Ends

    Please login to view the participants information. You have received the log in details in your registration confirmation.

    Katherine Bryant, Radboud U  

    Mal Pool, TU Berlin  

    Hannah Fitsch, TU Berlin  

    Anelis Kaiser, University of Freeiburg  

    Annelies Kleinherenbrink, Tilburg U  

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