Saturday 10 December 2016

No such thing as a male or female brain, neuroscientist claims

Published 06/09/2016 | 15:16

A leading academic said
A leading academic said "every brain is different for every individual"

A leading academic has rebuffed claims that male and female brains are wired differently - and branded the idea that men are from Mars and women are from Venus as "trash".

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Studies into the human brain need to stop focusing on what sex they are, neuroscientist Gina Rippon said.

Studies down the decades have claimed that women are better at social skills, remembering things and multi-tasking - while men are more aggressive, better at maths and worse at listening.

However, Professor Rippon, of Aston University, said that gender differences come from environmental factors.

Speaking at the British Science Festival, which is taking place in Swansea, she said: "There is no such thing as a male or female brain.

"There is no one aspect of the brain even which if a scientist looked at it they could tell whether it came from a man or a woman.

"We shouldn't be talking about sex differences in the brain. The brain is a mosaic and every brain is different for every individual.

"Using our neuroscience resources to measure differences is actually a waste of time. It's more interesting to see what makes individual brains different."

Prof Rippon believes that studies claiming differences between males and females are due to cultural and environmental factors.

She said that women become "wired" for multi-tasking not because of anything innate, but because that is what society expects of them.

And Prof Rippon said that the segregation between girls and boys even occurs from a young age - with them being given different toys to play with and different books to read - and that could change the way in which their brains develop.

She told an audience at Swansea University that boys' toys can often be more training-based while girls' toys are more nurturing.

"I'd say to the scientific community, can we please stop talking about sex? Stop dividing your data into two categories, you are losing so much information," Prof Rippon said.

"Not only are we feeding the 'neuro-trash' industry misunderstanding about what we do, but we are also feeding the inner wimp of people out there who believe that they can or can't do something based on whether they are male or female."

The British Science Festival is taking place at Swansea University from September 6 to 9.

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