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New Study Spotlights Structural Differences in Male and Female Brains


Researchers say the findings could aid in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders.

By Bisk on February 20, 2014
Female, Male Brains Wired for Different Tasks

Image courtesy of the National Academy of Sciences/PA

In the long-running gender wars over who is better at reading maps, score one for the gentlemen.

But don’t fret, ladies. You’re much more likely to be using all of your brainpower at any given time. (Of course, that may not come as news to lots of women).

Those are among the takeaways of new research that highlights differences in the brains of men and women, and could explain why each gender is stronger in some tasks versus others. The researchers said their findings may help healthcare professionals in diagnosing and treating neurological disorders.

The study, titled Sex Differences in the Structural Connectome of the Human Brain, used a technique known as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to trace neural connections between regions of the brain. The study sample was comprised of 521 females and 428 males, ages 8 to 22.  

The results were published in the December 2013 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study received funding from the National Institutes of Mental Health.

The researchers, who included professors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, found that neural connectivity is greater “from front to back and within one hemisphere in males.” In contrast, female brains are wired “between the left and right hemispheres,” according to a news release from the Perelman School.

In other words, men may be wired to perform better at tasks such as deciphering a road map, while women could have an inherent advantage when it comes to multitasking and working within a group.

“Overall, the results suggest that male brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action, whereas female brains are designed to facilitate communication between analytical and intuitive processing modes,” the researchers concluded.

Gender differences increased with age, according to the news release.

The researchers noted that brain connectivity in males appears to make them more efficient in tasks that require coordinated action. Women display more proficiency in attention- and memory-based tasks.

One of the study’s co-authors, Ruben Gur, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that women are likely to be more contextual thinkers.

“Their brains are better connected between their decisions and their memories,” said Gur, a psychology professor at the Perelman School. “For men, memories are memories. Decisions are decisions.”

Category: Healthcare