Neuroscientific investigations on “sex”/”gender” differences in the brain have a long and partially problematic history and have therefore repeatedly been the subject of feminist critique. Critical feminist analyses aim to illustrate that scientific argumentations in some cases canreinforce and legitimize traditional gender roles and hierarchies – examples of which are observed clearly in brain theories from the 19.th orearly 20.th century, when looked from a contemporary perspective. But what about current neuroscientific research? This is the question I would like to address in my talk by putting the relatively new and flourishing field of functional neuroimaging (fMRI) research under my magnifying glass.
Since the establishment of that field in the 1990s, there has been an abundance of publications on “sex”/”gender” differences in brain activity. I’m interested in which sexual/gender-related assumptions and paradigms underlie these studies. To explore this question and to trace the constructions of “sex”/”gender” in the neurosciences, I analyzed 35 original research manuscripts containing fMRI studies addressing the neural correlates of “sex”/”gender”-modulated psychological processes such as emotion recognition, memory or spatial orientation etc. In my talk I will discuss the extent to which current neuroscientific fMRI studies still frequently reinforce gender stereotypes and are often based on biologically deterministic concepts of “sex”/”gender”.