The Oren lab investigates how sexually dimorphic patterns in the brain emerge, from synapse formation to animal behavior

Sex-specific behaviors constitute a key hallmark of sexual reproduction that dominates the animal kingdom. Males and females respond differently to the same environmental sensory cues and transform these inputs into sexually dimorphic behaviors. Sexual dimorphisms in brain structure and function are evident across phylogeny, but little is known about sexually dimorphic features of individual neurons, and the mechanisms for establishment and maintenance of dimorphic neuronal circuits. We investigate the molecular mechanisms of sexual dimorphism from synapses and circuits to the behavioral outputs. To address these questions, we are using the powerful genetic toolbox of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as an in vivo model system. Taking advantage of the unparalleled depth by which C. elegans nervous system anatomy has been analyzed in both sexes, we have developed a unique system that enables studies of sexual dimorphism at the synaptic, circuit, genetic and behavioral levels, across all developmental stages.