Sex change and reverse inference

One of my favourite things to rant about to a captive audience of undergraduate students during my lectures is reverse inference, especially in the context of how the popular press covers neuroscience research. What is reverse inference, I hear you ask? It’s when results which measure changes in a physiological measure (e.g., brain structure or function) are interpreted as automatically implying a change in cognition or behaviour. This might seem a little…abstract. But some recent reporting on how testosterone (administered for sex change) alters various structural properties of the brain provides a timely demonstration of this common error.

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