Psychology, Research

Psychology Alumni Ashley Monks Uncovering Hidden Role of Sex Hormones

April 28, 2015

By Jackie Amsden

Hormones. They are the one messaging system we use even more than email, yet we know very little about how they operate. Simon Fraser University alumnus Ashley Monks is changing that.

Monks’ research explores the role and impact of sex hormones on an area that has not been fully explored within the bio-psychology field: muscle development and the nervous system. Sex hormones coordinate development, physiology and behavior with reproduction.

“My research seeks to understand how sex hormones shape the nervous system and how the brain is organized, and ultimately to uncover the biological basis behind what makes men and women different and how that actually works," he says.

Monks, who holds a cross appointment in cell and systems biology at the University of Toronto, completed a PhD in psychology at SFU in 2001. His doctoral research was recognized by the Governor General’s Gold Medal in Graduate Studies and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Doctoral Prize.

In 2014, Monks was part of a team that helped unravel a great mammalian mystery:  how Artic ground squirrels are able to pack on up to 30 per cent more muscle mass without experiencing any of the negative side-effects that would accompany a similar increase in the human body. The team’s findings, which attracted coverage on CBC News, showed that the secret relates to the distribution of the rodent’s testosterone receptors.