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Nancy Forger

Professor    Director of Neuroscience Institute    

B.A., 1981, Mathematics and Psychology, Dartmouth College (Summa Cum Laude)
Ph.D., 1986, Endocrinology, University of California, Berkeley
Postdoctoral Fellow, 1986-1994, University of California, Berkeley


Developmental Neurobiology
Sex Differences


Dr. Forger is a neuroscientist with special interests in hormones, development, and sexual differentiation of the nervous system. Current research projects in the lab examine how cell death and epigenetics contribute to sex difference in the brain. She was a Professor at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst for 18 years before joining GSU in 2012. Career research highlights include the first identification of a sex difference in the human spinal cord, some of the earliest work on neurotrophic factors and sexual differentiation, the role of cell death genes in the development of sex differences and, most recently, the role of epigenetics in sexual differentiation of the brain. In addition to work on more traditional lab animals (rats and mice), she has also been Principal Investigator on a project examining the effects of sex and social status on the brains of naked mole-rats, and was a long-time collaborator on the Berkeley spotted hyena project. Her research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Whitehall Foundation. She has been the recipient of two NIH Independent Scientist Awards and the Samuel F. Conti Award for Research Excellence from the University of Massachusetts. She has served on study sections for the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, and currently serves on the Editorial Boards of the journals Endocrinology and Hormones and Behavior. She is a Councilor of the Organization for the Study of Sex Differences, and a member of the Executive Board of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology.


Representative Publications:

Epigenetics and sexual differentiation of the brain and behavior

Forger NG (2017) Past, Present, and Future of Epigenetics in Brain Sexual Differentiation. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, Epub ahead of print.

Mosley M, Weathington J, Cortes LR, Bruggeman E, Castillo-Ruiz A, Xue B, Forger NG (2017) E Neonatal Inhibition of DNA Methylation Alters Cell Phenotype in Sexually Dimorphic Regions of the Mouse Brain. Endocrinology, 158:1838-1848.

Forger NG (2016) Epigenetic mechanisms in sexual differentiation of the brain and behaviour. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. , 371(1688):20150114..

Forger NG, Strahan JA, Castillo-Ruiz A. (2016) Cellular and molecular mechanisms of sexual differentiation in the mammalian nervous system.
Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 40:67-86.

Shen EY, Ahern TH, Cheung I, Straubhaar J, Dincer A, Houston I, de Vries GJ, Akbarian S, Forger NG (2015) Epigenetics and sex differences in the brain: A Genome-Wide Comparison of Histone-3 Lysine-4 Trimethylation (H3K4me3) in Male and Female Mice. Experimental Neurology, 268:21-29.

Ghahramani NM, Ngun TC, Chen PY, Tian Y, Krishnan S, Muir S, Rubbi L, Arnold AP, de Vries GJ, Forger NG, Pellegrini M, Vilain E (2014) The effects of perinatal testosterone exposure on the DNA methylome of the mouse brain are late-emerging. Biology of Sex Differences Jun 13;5:8.

McCarthy MM, Auger AP, Bale TL, De Vries GJ, Dunn GA, Forger NG, Murray EK, Nugent BM, Schwarz JM, Wilson ME (2009) The epigenetics of sex differences in the brain. Journal of Neuroscience 29:12815-12823.

Murray EK, Hien A, de Vries GJ, Forger NG (2009) Epigenetic control of sexual differentiation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Endocrinology 150:4241-4247.

The role of cell death in the development of sex differences

Strahan JA, Walker WH 2nd, Montgomery TR, Forger NG (2017) Minocycline causes widespread cell death and increases microglial labeling in the neonatal mouse brain.
Developmental Neurobiology, 77:753-766.

Mosley M, Shah C, Morse KA, Miloro SA, Holmes MM, Ahern TH, Forger NG (2017) Patterns of cell death in the perinatal mouse forebrain. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 525:47-64.

Ahern TH, Krug S, Carr AV, Murray E, Fizpatrick E, Bengston L, McCutcheon J, De Vries GJ, Forger NG (2013) Cell death atlas of the postnatal mouse ventral forebrain and hypothalamus: Effects of age and sex. J. Comparative Neurology 521:2551-2569.

Gilmore RF, Varnum MM, Forger NG (2012) Effects of blocking developmental cell death on sexually dimorphic calbindin cell groups in the preoptic area and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Biology of Sex Differences 15;3:5.

de Vries GJ, Jardon M, Reza M, Rosen GJ, Immerman E, Forger NG (2008) Sexual differentiation of vasopressin innervation of the brain: cell death versus phenotypic differentiation. Endocrinology, 149:4632-4637.

Jacob DA, Bengston CL, Forger NG (2005) Effects of Bax gene deletion on muscle and
motoneuron degeneration in a sexually dimorphic neuromuscular system. Journal of Neuroscience 25:5638-44.

Forger NG, Rosen GJ, Waters EM, Jacob D, Simerly RB, de Vries GJ (2004) Deletion of Bax eliminates sex differences in the mouse forebrain. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101:13666-13671.

Zup SL, Carrier H, Waters EM, Tabor A, Bengston L, Rosen GJ, Simerly RB, Forger NG (2003) Overexpression of bcl-2 reduces sex differences in neuron number in the brain and spinal cord. Journal of Neuroscience 23:2357-62.

Effects of Sex and Social status on the Brain of a Eusocial Mammal

Holmes MM, Goldman BD, Goldman S, Seney ML, Forger NG (2009) Neuroendocrinology and sexual differentiation in eusocial mammals. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology 30:519-533.

Rosen GJ, De Vries GJ, Goldman SL, Goldman BD, Forger NG (2008) Distribution of oxytocin in the brain of a eusocial rodent. Neuroscience 155:809-817.

Rosen GJ, De Vries GJ, Goldman BD, Forger NG (2007) Distribution of vasopressin in the brain of the eusocial naked mole-rat. Journal of Comparative Neurology 500:1093-1105.

Holmes MM, Rosen GJ, Jordan CL, De Vries GJ, Goldman BD, Forger NG (2007) Social control of brain morphology in a eusocial mammal. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 104:10548-10552.

Sexual differentiation in hyenas, dogs, and humans

De Vries GJ, Forger NG. 2015. Sex differences in the brain: a whole body perspective. Biology of Sex Differences 6: 15.

Rosen GJ, De Vries GJ, Villalba C, Weldele ML, Place NJ, Coscia EM, Glickman SE, Forger NG (2006) The distribution of vasopressin in the forebrain of spotted hyenas. Journal of Comparative Neurology 498:80-92.

Fenstemaker SB, Zup SL, Frank LG, Glickman SE, and Forger NG (1999) A Sex difference in the hypothalamus of spotted hyenas. Nature Neuroscience 2:943-945.

Forger NG and Breedlove SM (1986) Sexual dimorphism in human and canine spinal cord: Role of early androgen. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 83:7527-7531.

Neurotrophic factors and sexual differentiation

Xu J, Gingras KM, Bengston L, Di Marco A, and Forger NG (2001) Blockade of endogenous neurotrophic factors prevents the androgenic rescue of rat spinal motoneurons. Journal of Neuroscience 21:4366-4372.

Forger NG, Wagner CK, Contois M, Bengston L, and MacLennan AJ (1998) Ciliary neurotrophic factor receptor a (CNTFRa) in spinal motoneurons is regulated by gonadal hormones. Journal of Neuroscience 18:8720-8729.

Forger NG, Howell ML, Bengston L, MacKenzie L, DeChiara TM, and Yancopoulos GD (1997) Sexual dimorphism in the spinal cord is absent in mice lacking the ciliary neurotrophic factor receptor. Journal of Neuroscience 17:9605-9612.

Forger NG, Roberts SL, Wong V, and Breedlove SM (1993) Ciliary neurotrophic factor rescues rat motoneurons during developmental cell death. Journal of Neuroscience 13:4720-4726.

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