Daphna Joel

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Daphna Joel
דפנה יואל
Scientific career
FieldsBehavioral neuroscience
InstitutionsTel-Aviv University, Israel
WebsiteOfficial website

Daphna Joel (Hebrew: דפנה יואל; born January 20, 1967) is an Israeli neuroscientist. She is a senior member of the faculty of the School of Psychological Sciences and the School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University. Since 2003, she has served as the head of the psychobiology department, and in 2013 was appointed chair of the PhD committee of the School of Psychological Sciences.[1]

Joel specializes in the brain mechanisms of human and animal behavior. She has published more than 50 articles in scientific journals and has been awarded prizes and research grants, including the Buchman Foundation grant, the Mifal Hapais Prize and a European Foundation grant. She received the college rector commendation for excellence in teaching.

Joel is an active participant in the scientific discourse relating to brain differences between the sexes and related claims of 'neurosexism' within the scientific community.[2] According to her research, there is not such thing as a "male brain" or a "female brain", and she gives lectures on the subject in both scientific and lay conventions around the world.

Academic career[edit]

According to Joel, the brain is a "mosaic" of the male and femle

Joel began her academic career during her compulsory military service, in the Talpiot program, which she left after a year and a half. After completing her military service, Joel enrolled in the Tel Aviv University program for outstanding students. She completed a bachelor's degree in medical science, followed by a doctorate in psychobiology (1998), which focused on how connections in the brain are organized. She then joined the faculty of neuroscience, after receiving an Alon fellowship for young Israeli scientists.[3] Her main area of research for 15 years was the cerebral mechanisms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

One of the main questions in Joel's research is whether there is a "male brain" and a "female brain"; whether human brains can be divided in a binary way, as is generally done with human genitals. According to Joelj's research, the answer is "no".

One of the most important studies on which Joel's theory is based was done by pharmacologist Margaret McCarthy from the University of Maryland. McCarthy found that characteristics in male and female animal brains can cause changes in their shapes as a result of external circumstances such as stress. Joel concluded from the results of this study and other studies she examined that if under pressure certain areas of the brain can turn from their typical "female form" to the typical "male form" – there is no point in talking about a female brain and a male brain, and that this division is meaningless.[4]

According to Joel, the brain has no sex, and the differences between "female" and "male" brains, though they exist, are minor and unrelated to each other. She was the first to talk about correlation in the context of the brain: a particular area of the brain, such as a large amygdala, does not predict anything about a different part of the brain, say, a small hippocampus.[5] Although there are differences in the brain between males and females, they are not organized.[6] Thus, if a "male" characteristic is found in a particular area, it does not actually mean anything about the masculinity or femininity of the other brain characteristics, which are determined by the complex interactions between sex, genetics and the environment.[4]

Joel's conclusions have been challenged by others in the field of neuroscience, and she met with obstacles getting her first study on the subject published in 2011: Male or Female? Brains are Intersex.[7]

Joel is a member of The NeuroGenderings Network[8] and has advocated in the media for a less gender essentialist approach to neuroscience.[9]

Gender and feminism[edit]

Joel counts gender and feminism among her research interests. In an interview with The Marker, she said that even as a child and during her military service (ages 18–20) she expressed feminist views.[10] Joel claims that in the gendered western world, males (as identified by their genitals) are channeled into being "boys", and genitally identified females – into "girls". According to Joel, the common social and cultural perception is one that divides the world of possibilities into two parts. In her opinion, in a world without gender, where there is no social and cultural significance to the shape of a person's genitals, there will be many more possibilities for both females and males.[6]

In 2009, Joel began "Women/Men Conflict Groups" for psychology undergraduates, a program created by Prof. Ariella Friedman, according to a model developed in dialog groups of Jews and Arabs in Neve Shalom. Later, she developed a working model for groups dealing with gender issues, which combines the conflict group model with the awareness group model from the 1970s.[11] Based on this model, she began designing a course in psychology and gender – "Is pink a girl color?", which examined social conventions such as what is "feminine" and "masculine," and people's attitudes, often unconscious, towards various things from the perspective of their gender. The preparation of this course led Joel to her research into the "male brain" and "female brain" in the early 2000s.

Honors and Awards[edit]

  • 1993 Trotzki Award
  • 1994-1997 Josef Buchmann Doctoral Fellowship Fund
  • 1998 Israeli Council for Higher Education: Alon Fellowship for Young Outstanding Scientists
  • 2000 Mifal Hapais – Michael Landau Foundation Research Award
  • 2003 Tel Aviv University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Rector's award for excellence in teaching
  • 2011 Tel Aviv University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Rector's award for excellence in teaching


Select Refereed Articles[edit]

  • Joel, Daphna; Tarrasch, Ricardo; Berman, Zohar; Mukamel, Maya; Ziv, Effi (2014). "Queering gender: studying gender identity in 'normative' individuals". Psychology and Sexuality. 5 (4): 291–321. doi:10.1080/19419899.2013.830640.
  • Joel, Daphna; Yarimi, Dana (January 2014). "Consciousness-raising in a gender conflict group". International Journal of Group Psychotherapy. 64 (1): 48–69. doi:10.1521/ijgp.2014.64.1.48. PMID 24320572.
  • Joel, Daphna; Yankelevitch-Yahav, Roni (October 2014). "Reconceptualizing sex, brain and psychopathology: interaction, interaction, interaction". British Journal of Pharmacology. 171 (20): 4620–4635. doi:10.1111/bph.12732. PMC 4209935. PMID 24758640. Pdf.
  • Joel, Daphna; Fine, Cordelia; Jordan-Young, Rebecca; Kaiser, Anelis; Rippon, Gina (November–December 2014). "Reaction to "Equal ≠ The Same: Sex Differences in the Human Brain"". Cerebrum. Dana Foundation. 2014.
See also: Cahill, Larry (March–April 2014). "Equal ≠ The Same: Sex Differences in the Human Brain". Cerebrum. 2014: 5. PMC 4087190. PMID 25009695.

Chapters in Books[edit]

  • Joel, Daphna (2014), "Sex, gender, and brain – a problem of conceptualization", in Schmitz, Sigrid; Höppner, Grit (eds.), Gendered neurocultures: feminist and queer perspectives on current brain discourses, challenge GENDER, 2, Wien: Zaglossus, ISBN 9783902902122.
  • Joel, Daphna; Stein, Dan J.; Schreiber, Rudy (2008), "Animal models of obsessive–compulsive disorder: From bench to bedside via endophenotypes and biomarkers", in McArthur, Robert A.; Borsini, Franco (eds.), Animal and translational models for CNS drug discovery, Amsterdam Boston: Elsevier/Academic Press, pp. 133–164, ISBN 9780123738561
  • Joel, Daphna; Weiner, Ina (2002), "Dopamine in schizophrenia: Dysfunctional information processing in basal ganglia-thalamocortical split circuits", in Di Chiara, Gaetano (ed.), Dopamine in the CNS II, Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology Vol. 154, Berlin New York: Springer, pp. 417–472, ISBN 9783540427209
  • Joel, Daphna; Weiner, Ina (2000), "Striatal contention scheduling and the split circuit scheme of basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuitry: From anatomy to behaviour", in Miller, Robert; Wickens, Jeffery R. (eds.), Brain dynamics and the striatal complex, Amsterdam, Netherlands: Harwood Academic, pp. 209–236, ISBN 9789057024788


  • Joel, Daphna; Vikhanski, Luba (2019). Purple brain: beyond the myth of the male and female brain. New York: Hachette Book Group. ISBN 9780316534611.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Daphna Joel". people.socsci.tau.ac.il. Tel-Aviv University. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Eight Things You Need to Know About Sex, Gender, Brains, and Behavior: A Guide for Academics, Journalists, Parents, Gender Diversity Advocates, Social Justice Warriors, Tweeters, Facebookers, and Everyone Else". S&F Online. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  3. ^ "Daphna Joel". Hachette Book Group. 2019-01-08. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Richardson, Sarah (October 29, 2018). "A Q&A with Daphna Joel on her new article, "Analysis of Human Brain Structure Reveals that the Brain 'Types' Typical of Males Are Also Typical of Females, and Vice Versa"". GenderSci Lab, Harvard University. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  5. ^ Joel, Daphna; Fine, Cordelia (December 3, 2018). "Can we finally stop talking about 'male' and 'female' brains?". New York Times. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  6. ^ a b TEDxJaffa, Dapha Joel: Are Brains Male or Female? Oct 8, 2012
  7. ^ Joel, Daphna (20 September 2011). "Male or Female? Brains are Intersex". Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 5 (57): 57. doi:10.3389/fnint.2011.00057. PMC 3176412. PMID 21960961.
  8. ^ "Members". neurogenderings.wordpress.com. The NeuroGenderings Network. 2014-10-21. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  9. ^ Joel, Daphna; Fine, Cordelia (1 December 2015). "It's time to celebrate the fact that there are many ways to be male and female". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
    See also: Joel, Daphna; et al. (15 December 2015). "Sex beyond the genitalia: The human brain mosaic". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. National Academy of Sciences. 112 (50): 15468–15473. Bibcode:2015PNAS..11215468J. doi:10.1073/pnas.1509654112. PMC 4687544. PMID 26621705.
  10. ^ רותי רודנר (March 6, 2012). "הטקסט הזה ישנה לכם את המוח, וזה מדעי". TheMarker. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  11. ^ Joel, Daphna; Yarimi, D. (2014). "Consciousness-raising in a gender conflict group". International Journal of Group Psychotherapy. 64 (1): 48–69. doi:10.1521/ijgp.2014.64.1.48. PMID 24320572.

External links[edit]