His and Her Brains

By Serge Lashutka, M.A, M.B.A.

In the past decade researchers have been studying male and female brains at the microscopic anatomic level and discovering some intriguing gender differences. For years science has known that on average human male brains are larger than female brains. Therefore are males generally smarter? This appears to not be the case. The neurons in the cortex of female brains are actually packed closer together and female brains possess as much as 12% more neurons than males. This may explain how women are able to demonstrate the same level of intelligence with a smaller brain.

 

The human cortex has 6 layers of neurons. Specific functions have been isolated in different parts and layers of the brain. For example, perception and memory are associated with the temporal lobe. Research by Dr. Sandra Witelson found that the increased neural density occurred in only 2 of these 6 layers. These 2 layers are associated with the hard wiring for managing incoming signals to the brain. When Dr. Witelson examined the prefrontal cortex, 3 different layers were more densely packed with neurons in the female brain than male brains. Interestingly, these 3 layers are associated with hard wiring for outbound signals from the brain. This is the region responsible for perception and speech. Might this explain why women score more highly than men on tasks involving language and communication? Are these differences a result of nurture or nature? The jury is still out as to why these differences, and others, exist. But exist they do. And these differences do influence how men and women perceive the world, process information and respond. Some of our gender-culture appears to be more hard wired than we may have thought.

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