One Size Does Not Fit All: The Intersection Between Sex, Gender & Brain Health

In honour of Women’s International Day and Brain Health Month, this Community of Innovation podcast episode looks at the intersection between sex, gender, and brain health – specifically for women and individuals from the 2SLGBTQI+ communities. Our guests explore the historical reasons and implications of ignoring sex and gender in science and research. They’ll also look at the aging and brain health journey from a gender-diverse lens and will dive into the importance of equity and intersectionality in health research, innovation, and promotion.

Key Highlights

Dr. Allison Sekuler: “I think for me, what stood out was the recurring theme throughout the discussion that women are not women are not women…in other words, we need to be thinking beyond the binary and not thinking of, ‘let’s look at men versus women,’ because when you do that you lose the individuality of people’s life experiences, of people’s interactions with different elements of their being…the intersectionality of their environment and their life stage…”

Dr. Rosanne Aleong: “Building on [Allison’s] point, two things stood out for me. One is this historical misconception that women’s health is equal to reproductive health…we need to move past fertility as all-encompassing when we talk about women’s health. The second piece is when one of our guests talked about gendered life experiences and … particular experiences that can impact biology as well.”

Listen to the podcast


XX [1]: The sex chromosomes of human beings and other mammals are designated by scientists as X and Y. Individuals having two X chromosomes (XX) are designated as female.

XY [1]: The sex chromosomes of human beings and other mammals are designated by scientists as X and Y. Individuals having one X chromosome and one Y chromosome (XY) are designated as male.

Intersex [2]: Noting or relating to a person, animal, or plant having reproductive organs, genitals, hormones, or chromosomal patterns that do not fall under typical definitions of male and female.

MMPI [3]: Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory is a standardized psychometric test of adult personality and psychopathology.


Learn more about our guests

Dr. Gillian Einstein is The Wilfred and Joyce Posluns Chair in Women’s Brain Health and Aging, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, Adjunct Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, and Guest Professor of Gender and Health at Linköping University in Linköping, Sweden. She is a board member of the International Gender Medicine Society, Chair of the Canadian Institutes of Health’s Institute of Gender and Health Advisory Board, and Founder of the Canadian Organization of Gender and Sex (COGS) Research. She also leads the Women, Sex, Gender, and Dementia Cross-Cutting Program for the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration and Aging. She is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Brain Canada, Ontario Brain Institute, and the Women’s Brain Health Initiative to understand how early life events, including surgeries and cultural practices, affect the trajectory of women’s brain health. Dr. Einstein uses “Situated Neuroscience” with a combination of qualitative, quantitative, and physiological methods (Very Mixed Methods) to explore how both sex and gender mediate women’s brain health.

Dr. (Maria) Natasha Rajah received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Toronto (2003) and did her post-doctoral training at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California at Berkeley. She joined McGill University and the Douglas Research Centre as an Assistant Professor in 2005. She is currently a Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, and Assistant Dean (Academic Affairs), at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at McGill University, and an Adjunct Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest. She holds a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Sex and Gender Research Chair in Neuroscience, Mental Health, and Addiction. Dr. Rajah’s research program uses multidisciplinary methods, including brain imaging, to advance knowledge on how sex, gender, and social determinants of health affect the brain and cognitive aging. Currently, her work is focused on understanding how midlife and menopause affect episodic memory and brain function.

Subscribe to the CABHI’s Community of Innovation wherever you get your podcasts!