Men and women can never be alike. Their brains are wired differently! We have to live with it!
Well, the gender wars and stereotyping have been very popular through the ages. And that famous book of John Gray ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ has become a very popular saying poking fun at the ages long celebration or derision (as you may like to think) about the differences between the genders.
In case you thought these were all jokes and those men and women are equal in all ways, then do reconsider your views, in light of the latest scientist reports. Neuroscience researchers in the University of Pennsylvania have found some amazing results which could provide some foundation for the age long stereotyping of male and female attributes. The research study was carried out using the Diffusion imaging studies based on the MRI scans of 949 people, whose ages are from 8 to 22, at the university of Pennsylvania. What gives this research a reasonably firm foundation is the large sample size and diversity of ages of people used in their surveys. They grouped the image by sex and inspected the aggregate of the pictures.
Their research has thrown up the intriguing findings that the wiring of the brain (neuronal connections and networking) is configured differently in men and women. The wiring or neuronal circuitry, here, refers to the bundles of nervebodies or axons that act as communication roads for the transmission of information between different parts of the mind to the other. The networking in the case of male brains involves connections running from front to back on same side of brain while for female brains, it is side-side between the left and right hemispheres. That is, male brains have more connections within the single hemispheres and less number of connections between the hemispheres whereas the female brains are more interconnected between hemispheres. When you see this on a diagram, you can see lots of zig zags within the brain hemisphere for the male brains and between the hemispheres for the female brains.
How and when does this occur in the brains?
This arrangement of the networking is believed to occur during adolescence when there are many physical changes occurring in the body as a result of hormones. The differences were not as distinct in children but came into prominence as adolescence started.
The results seem to verify known aspects of male and female behaviour such as differences in performing spatial tasks, mental tasks, memory and verbal skills etc also explaining why each sex scores in certain areas as compare to the other. Women’s ability to use both sides of the brain more efficiently may explain their greater ability to multitask and their ability to manage different tasks, which requires the usage of different parts of the brain. Because of the connections between the logical and the intuitive parts of the brains, women may be usingm ore of their gut feelings and intuitions in situations and making judgements.
And they are most holistic in their thinking. As per the researchers, the results of the imaging studies show that men show greater strengths in perception and coordinated action. What they say is that this relates to men able to see issues and directly resolve them as they have strong connections in this area.
Supporting evidence of this difference in the brains of males and females.
What adds more substance to this research is certain information already existing in the knowledge as regarding the size of the male brains which are comparatively bigger to females. Studies on differences in physical behaviour, hormonal studies, physiological studies have also lend credence to the idea that the brains of men and women are wired differently.
What Else Does Science Say About the Differences in the Male and Female Brains?
Some studies related to molecular biology have shown that expression of genes occur differently in men and women in the brain. In fact, some studies have also demonstrated the fact that the hormonal influences which lead to sex differentiation starts within the womb only. Israeli research scientists have shown that there are definite differences in the brains of developing male and female brains in developing foetuses as early as 26 weeks. They could also observe differences in the thickness of the corpus callosum in female and male foetuses with females showing thicker callosums than males. Scientists have also obserbed that female brains tend to have language development in both areas of the brain. Some studies have shown that women’s brains also tend to show greater ability to carry out different functions at rest than men’s. Hence, women show more natural ability for socialisation and men for focussed action.
In contrast to this research has been studies which refuted the idea that males and females demonstrate differences in strengths related to different sides of the brain. Not only that, some have fears that these ostensible differences between the two sexes, may be used to drive more separation between the sexes and reinforce the existing stereotypes.
The scientists involved in this research says that these general findings does not mean that all individuals would reflect these to the same extent. There would be individual differences.This research is of great importance in understanding neurological disorders with sex linkages and may have significance in educational psychology and other related areas. But in the mean time, it has created a lot of brouhaha over the underlying conclusions, which supposedly reinforces the stereotypes.
As the battle rages, it seems Mars and Venus and the pink and blue fan clubs will have the last laugh for now.
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