Organization of Frontal Lobe Networks and Function
Marie Banich, Suzanne Haber, and Trevor W. Robbins, Chairs
The frontal lobes, which are most expanded in humans as compared to other species, play a critical role in higher-order thinking and the control of goal-oriented behavior, yet there is no consensus on how its neuroanatomical and functional organization enables such capabilities. Although scientists investigate the frontal lobe functions using diverse approaches, their focus is typically on one frontal area or network (i.e., the executive control network connections of the dorsolateral PFC). What is missing is an understanding of how, where, and when networks interact. The capabilities of the frontal cortex require an organization that must be able to integrate across multiple brain systems, utilizing information from each of these in a measured flexible manner, depending on task demands. A major issue is whether there is a central executive controlling region of the PFC or whether this control emerges from the interplay between autonomous processing modules in its specific anatomical subregions (or Brodmann areas).
Research on the frontal lobes is an active area of research across various fields, yet it is somewhat “siloed,” and no major meeting has been held on the topic for a decade. This Forum will promote extensive discussion and collaboration across fields, as researchers collectively explore how frontal cortical networks interact and work together to develop appropriate control over actions and thoughts.
L. Zachary DuBois and Anelis Kaiser Trujillo, Chairs
Research into gender and sex has recently gotten heightened levels of attention, driven partly by institutional mandates to consider sex as a biological variable (SABV) as well as the rising profile of gender-focused clinical research and practice. Yet science exists within society, not apart from it, and must therefore contend with societal discussions and polarizing debates, where the meaning of sex, gender, and their entanglement is anything but straightforward. The use of binary conceptualizations, the interaction between gender experience and sex-linked biology, and the very nature of these categories are currently under intense scrutiny across a range of disciplines and communities.
To some degree, binary categories of sex and gender organize human society, and these categories are widely applied in myriad ways in research, science, and policy. The term “sex” is typically used to refer to the categorization of bodies into male and female based on a suite of characteristics linked to reproductive biology, whereas “gender” is often used to refer to a culturally embedded suite of socially recognized categories reflecting group and individual-level power dynamics, identities, norms, and experiences that are recognized today as fluid, complex, and diverse. Remarkable contextual variation exists, however, in how these binary categories are defined and operationalized. The initial impetus for the conceptual differentiation of sex and gender was to decouple practices, roles, social expectations, etc. from biology and challenge essentialist claims upon which discrimination is frequently based. “Sex” then became primarily the category for biological sciences and “gender” was anchored into the social sciences and humanities, reflecting the old and problematic division of realms in academic cultures. However important, this systematic separation of the two concepts now shapes what is (and is not) possible to study within different disciplines. Moreover, the partitioning of gender from sex blurs their entanglement and insufficiently captures the breadth of human variation and biological and social/cultural coevolution. The combined terms “sex/gender” and “gender/sex” have been proposed but are currently deployed in only a very small sector of science or policy work, and not at all reflected in public discourse. Although significant theoretical developments have been made in certain disciplines, the necessity of revisiting these concepts and their entanglement remains unrecognized in others. Often-contested new policies and funding streams for the study of sex and gender indicate the need for further integration of theory, practice, and policy.
This Forum is being convened to identify areas where sex, gender, and their entanglement remain insufficiently or divergently theorized. By advancing dialogue between scholars from diverse disciplines, it aims to advance conceptualizations of gender and sex, to align dialogue across disciplines, and to promote sound application in research, policy, medicine, and public health.