The Myth of Brain Sex

In the past decade, we’ve heard a lot about the innate differences between males and females. So we’ve come to accept that boys can’t focus in a classroom and girls are obsessed with relationships: “That’s just the way they’re built.”

Lise Eliot, Ph.D., argues that infant brains are so malleable that small differences at birth become amplified over time, as parents, teachers, peers—and the culture at large—unwittingly reinforce gender stereotypes. Of course, genes and hormones play a role in creating boy-girl differences, but they are only the beginning. Social factors, such as how we speak to our sons and daughters and whether we encourage their physical adventurousness, are proving to be far more powerful than we previously realized. As a parent, Eliot understands the difficulty of bucking gender expectations, but also the value of doing so.

This program will feature a short lecture by Dr. Eliot on the causes of male and female brain differences, followed by a casual conversation between her and Aaron Freeman, science journalist and comedian. Audience questions will be taken after the conversation between Freeman and Eliot.

Lise Eliot, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University and author of the books What’s Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years and Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps. She received her B.A. in the History of Science at Harvard University and Ph.D. in Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at Columbia University. Between her graduate work in Eric Kandel’s lab at Columbia and post-doctoral research at Baylor College of Medicine, she spent ten years studying neuroplasticity at the cellular and molecular level. In addition to teaching and writing, Eliot lectures widely on children’s brain and gender development.

Aaron Freeman is a science enthusiast and comedian. He is currently Artist In Residence for C2ST. He spent three years as a performer on the main stage of Chicago’s Second City Improv Theater, where fellow cast members included Bonnie Hunt and Mike Meyers. His comedy routine Council Wars is one of the most celebrated in Chicago history. For ten years, Aaron hosted a television talk show on WPWR-TV. He was co-host and chief science correspondent for Chicago Public Radio’s Metropolis, and host of WTTW’s science and technology program, Chicago Tomorrow.

DETAILS: Saturday, April 9, 2016. University of Illinois-Chicago, Moss Auditorium, College of Medicine Research Building, 909 S. Wolcott Ave., Chicago, IL, 60612. Registration and reception 3:30 p.m., program runs 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. This program is FREE and open to the public. Advanced registration encouraged at of-brain- sex-tickets- 23247348445 The College of Medicine Research

Building is accessible via the Polk stop on the CTA Pink line, or the Illinois Medical District stop on the Blue line.

Dr. Eliot will have hardcover copies of her book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps – And What We Can Do About It, available for purchase after her talk for $20 (cash only), five dollars off the cover price. She will gladly sign book purchases after the presentation. Questions? Contact Andrea Poet at or 312-567- 5795.

This program is presented in partnership with the Chicago Society for Neuroscience, in association with their April 8, 2016 academic conference.

ABOUT C2ST: Chicago Council on Science and Technology is a not-for- profit, membership-based organization that brings researchers and scientists out of the lab, to the public. In an age when barely one in four voting adults meet a basic level of scientific literacy, we aim to reignite an excitement and passion for science and technology, and remind Chicagoans of the quality and quantity of R&D that takes place in their backyard. Visit our website,, for a complete listing of our programs.

Leave a Reply