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The scientific body of knowledge - Whose body does it serve? A spotlight on oral contraceptives and women's health factors in neuroimaging.


Women constitute half of the world's population, yet neuroscience research does not serve the sexes equally. Fifty years of preclinical animal evidence documents the tightly-coupled relationship between our endocrine and nervous systems, yet human neuroimaging studies rarely consider how endocrine factors shape the structural and functional architecture of the human brain. Here, we quantify several blind spots in neuroimaging research, which overlooks aspects of the human condition that impact women's health (e.g. the menstrual cycle, hormonal contraceptives, pregnancy, menopause). Next, we illuminate potential consequences of this oversight: today over 100 million women use oral hormonal contraceptives, yet relatively few investigations have systematically examined whether disrupting endogenous hormone production impacts the brain. We close by presenting a roadmap for progress, highlighting the University of California Women's Brain Initiative which is addressing unmet needs in women's health research.

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