Pritschet named 2020 NIH-ORWH Science Policy Scholar
Laura Pritschet is a recipient of the 2020 NIH-ORWH Science Policy Scholar travel award!
Congratulations to Laura Pritschet, recipient of the National Institutes of Health & Office of Research on Women's Health Science Policy Scholar travel award!
The award was given in recognition of her work, "The Scientific Body of Knowledge – Whose Body Does It Serve? A Spotlight on Human Neuroscience", to be presented at the Organization for the Study of Sex Differences in March.
Women comprise half the world’s population, yet women’s health is underrepresented in scientific research. Discovery of a sex bias catalyzed the NIH’s 2016 SABV mandate requiring the inclusion of both sexes in preclinical studies. Recent efforts by the NIH (e.g. the Trans-NIH Strategic Plan for Women’s Health Research) should spur the scientific community to move beyond mere inclusion of females, towards designing studies with women’s health in mind. Here we conducted a literature review to spotlight how far our field–human neuroscience–needs to go to address the unmet needs of women’s health.
Despite >50 years of evidence from animal studies probing the tightly-coupled relationship between our endocrine and nervous systems, human neuroscience rarely considers how endocrine factors shape the brain. To illuminate this, we quantified the number of brain imaging articles published between 1995–2018 that considered menopause, pregnancy, oral contraceptives or the menstrual cycle. Over 25 years, ~300 articles considered neuroendocrine factors relative to the ~43,000 brain imaging papers published during this period. We then took a deeper look, probing publication patterns in leading neuroscience journals. In a survey of every paper published in 2018 in Nature Neuroscience, Journal of Neuroscience, Human Brain Mapping, Neuron and NeuroImage, fewer than 3% of brain imaging papers considered endocrine factors in their study design and nearly half used these variables as the basis for excluding women.
Though equally enrolled as participants in human neuroscience, our research programs are not serving men and women equally. Understanding hormone–brain relationships are critical for both sexes, but women may be disproportionately disadvantaged by this oversight. Without further NIH mandates, scientists will continue to overlook aspects of the human condition relevant to women. Applying a women’s health lens to the study of the brain is overdue and critical for our understanding of brain function.