DEC 09, 2015 05:06 AM PST

Brain Differences in Men and Women? Not Really...

For decades, scientists, sociologists and anyone who has ever been in a relationship have tried to figure out the differences between men and women, from a psychological point of view. Is it brain chemistry, or structure? Is it hormones? The environment, the educational system, television, magazines or any number of other factors are considered when looking at the habits and behaviors of men and women, but aside from the external biological parts that are clearly different, are there differences in the brain, the supercomputer of the body?
A male brain? No such thing...
 
A study published recently looked at that issue. Using MRI scans and diffuse tension images from 1,400 brains, researchers at Tel Aviv University found that a brain that was all male or all female was extremely rare. Rather than being the norm, as some have thought, the concept of a man brain or woman brain isn’t a reality.
 
Led by psychology professor Daphna Joel at the University the study attempted to classify brains in terms of gender. Before they could evaluate the images and brain structure, they first had to devise a continuum of sorts. At one end were traits that were essentially female, that is, found more often in female brains and at the other traits that were found more often in males. 

There were definite gender differences in the size of some parts of the brain. For instance men have a larger left hippocampus, in general, than women. The left hippocampus is largely responsible for memory functions, but this study did not look at whether or not size mattered in terms of brain function.
 
Then on each image, they research team scored the traits of structure as to where it fell along the male/female continuum.  The team looked at specific brain regions, scoring them as predominantly male, female or a little of both
 
Unlike a middle school dance where the males are on one side and the females on another, there was no definite dividing line by gender in the brain. The percentage of brains that were scored  “all female” or “all male” ranged from 0-8% depending on the scans and what they looked at, such as grey matter vs. white matter. The number of brains that showed a mix of both female and male traits was much higher, ranging from 23-53%.
 
Professor Joel, in an interview with The Guardian stated, “We show there are differences, but brains do not come in male and female forms. The differences you see are differences between averages. Each one of us is a unique mosaic. We have to treat each person according to what he or she is and not according to the form of their genitals.”
 
Check out the video below to hear more about differences in how men and women think, in terms of this study and another by home goods retailer IKEA on how men and women think when the rubber meets the road: assembling furniture.
 
  
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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