Saturday 18 November 2017

The difference between men and women is all in the head

An image showing the significant differences in brain activity.
An image showing the significant differences in brain activity.

Steve Connor

The brains of men and women are wired differently, which could explain many of the stereotypical differences in male and female behaviour – such as why men are supposedly better at map reading while women are better at remembering a conversation, scientists have said.

A study found that many of the connections in a typical male brain run between the front and the back of the same side of the brain, whereas in women the connections are more likely to run from side to side between the left and right hemispheres.

Scientists said that these physical differences between the two sexes in the way the brain is hardwired could play an important role in understanding why men are in general better at spatial tasks involving muscle control, while women are better at verbal tasks involving memory and intuition.

"These maps show us a stark difference – and complementarity – in the architecture of the human brain that helps to provide a potential neural basis as to why men excel at certain tasks, and women at others," said Ragini Verma, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

"What we've identified is that, when looked at in groups, there are connections in the brain that are hardwired differently in men and women. Functional tests have already shown that when they carry out certain tasks, men and women engage different parts of the brain."

The research was carried out on 949 individuals – 521 females and 428 males – aged between eight and 22. The brain differences between the sexes only became apparent after adolescence.

A special scanning technique established the level of connectivity between nearly 100 regions of the brain, creating a neural map called the "connectome", Prof Verma said.

"It tells you whether one region of the brain is physically connected to another part of the brain and you can get significant differences between two populations," she said.

CONNECTIONS

"In women, most of the connections go between left and right across the two hemispheres, while in men most of the connections go between the front and the back of the brain."

Because the female connections link the left hemisphere, which is associated with logical thinking, with the right, which is linked with intuition, this could help to explain why women tend to do better in men at intuitive tasks, she said.

"Intuition is thinking without thinking. It's what people call gut feelings. Women tend to be better than men at these kinds of skills which are linked with being good mothers."

The study was published in the journal 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences'. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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