Researchers Say No Such Thing as ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ Brains

Businesswoman and businessman shaking handsMuch research has been done lately to find out more about differences between men and women, especially in regard to their brains. According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, men’s and women’s brains show few differences, and most brains cannot be easily classified as male or female.

Men’s and Women’s Brains More Similar than Different

Researchers studied existing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans on more than 1,400 brains. Rather than examining brain function, they looked at anatomical features such as brain volume and tissue thickness. They also used diffusion tensor imaging to track white matter tracts throughout the brain. Because previous research has linked gender differences to certain brain traits, the team focused on areas that showed the biggest differences.

While the brains showed more similarities than differences, some gender-based patterns did emerge. For instance, men sometimes had a slightly larger left hippocampus than women, but in each region of the brain researchers found overlap between genders. Some female brains had a larger hippocampus more typical in males, and some male brains had a smaller hippocampus more typical in female brains. Based on this data, the scientists created a continuum of “male” to “female” brains, then assigned each brain to a spot on the continuum. Most brains could not be classified as male or female, showing significant crossover instead. Ultimately less than 8% of all brains could be easily classified as male or female.

The team also assessed psychological and behavioral differences between men and women. For this portion of the study, they gathered data from two previous studies that looked at more than 5,000 men and women. They found no clear gender-based psychological or behavioral divisions.

Additional Studies on Gender Differences

The brain is just one way to measure differences between men and women, but research in that area is increasingly finding similarities between genders. Another brain imaging study found the hippocampus—a brain region that plays a role in memory formation and connects senses to emotions—does not differ significantly between men and women.

Some research suggests that even when men and women behave similarly, people may assign different judgments based on gender. For example, a study released earlier in 2015 found people judged male architects as more creative than female architects, even when the work was identical.

Based on the most recent study, researchers concluded there is no one type of male or female brain.

References:

  1. Joel, D., Berman, Z., Tavor, I., Wexler, N., Gaber, O., Stein, Y., . . . Assaf, Y. (2015). Sex beyond the genitalia: The human brain mosaic. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. doi:10.1073/pnas.1509654112
  2. Wheeling, K. (2015, December 2). The brains of men and women aren’t really that different, study finds. Retrieved from http://news.sciencemag.org/brain-behavior/2015/11/brains-men-and-women-aren-t-really-different-study-finds

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  • Kitty

    Kitty

    December 2nd, 2015 at 2:32 PM

    I would be willing to bet that most people today do not think that there would be any huge differences and that you probably couldn’t tell one from the other i they were side by side.

    Nut knowing what I know about men and women, you know that there at least has to a difference in the way we do things and process things because there is just too much difference in emotions and actions for there to not be something to this.

  • relic

    relic

    December 3rd, 2015 at 3:01 PM

    This is something that has been believed to be true for so long that I think that it will take a very long time for any of us to break free from those stereotypes, no matter how hurtful they continue to be.

  • Link

    Link

    December 4th, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    I know that there are people out there who are cheering but I think that for a lot of us this still leaves us pretty confused.
    Why are there such differences between men and women if it has nothing to do with the brain?
    Is it the way we are raised?
    Or is there still some kind of genetic material that hardwires us in a different way?

  • Joyce

    Joyce

    December 7th, 2015 at 10:24 AM

    hmmm I would love to see the brains of those who still feel that there are significant differences
    you know, just so I could see in person just how small their minds actually are

  • Mackenzie

    Mackenzie

    December 8th, 2015 at 7:48 AM

    But we do have to admit that there are definitely female and male differences. I think to say that there are no differences would be lying. That does n’t mean that one is smarter or more creative or talented than the other, but there are differences. I do wish that we could celebrate those more instead of only looking at them as if it is a bad thing.

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