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One more brain myth bites the dust: There’s no Male Brain, or Female Brain; There’s Human Brain

sn-genderbrainThe brains of men and women aren’t real­ly that dif­fer­ent, study finds (Sci­ence):

As soon as sci­en­tists could image the brain, they began hunt­ing for sex differences…in the new study, researchers led by Daph­na Joel, a behav­ioral neu­ro­sci­en­tist at Tel Aviv Uni­ver­si­ty in Israel, tried to be as com­pre­hen­sive as pos­si­ble. Using exist­ing sets of MRI brain images, they mea­sured the vol­ume of gray mat­ter (the dark, knob­by tis­sue that con­tains the core of nerve cells) and white mat­ter (the bun­dles of nerve fibers that trans­mit sig­nals around the ner­vous sys­tem) in the brains of more than 1400 indi­vid­u­als. They also stud­ied data from dif­fu­sion ten­sor imag­ing, which shows how tracts of white mat­ter extend through­out the brain, con­nect­ing dif­fer­ent regions.

The major­i­ty of the brains were a mosa­ic of male and female struc­tures, the team reports…Depending on whether the researchers looked at gray mat­ter, white mat­ter, or the dif­fu­sion ten­sor imag­ing data, between 23% and 53% of brains con­tained a mix of regions that fell on the male-end and female-end of the spec­trum. Very few of the brains—between 0% and 8%—contained all male or all female struc­tures. “There is no one type of male brain or female brain,” Joel says.

There is no sense in talk­ing about male nature and female nature,” Joel says. “There is no one per­son that has all the male char­ac­ter­is­tics and anoth­er per­son that has all the female char­ac­ter­is­tics. Or if they exist they are real­ly, real­ly rare to find.”

Study: Sex beyond the gen­i­talia: The human brain mosa­ic (Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­mies of Sci­ence). From the abstract:

  • Sig­nif­i­cance: Sex/gender dif­fer­ences in the brain are of high social inter­est because their pres­ence is typ­i­cal­ly assumed to prove that humans belong to two dis­tinct cat­e­gories not only in terms of their gen­i­talia, and thus jus­ti­fy dif­fer­en­tial treat­ment of males and females. Here we show that, although there are sex/gender dif­fer­ences in brain and behav­ior, humans and human brains are com­prised of unique “mosaics” of fea­tures, some more com­mon in females com­pared with males, some more com­mon in males com­pared with females, and some com­mon in both females and males. Our results demon­strate that regard­less of the cause of observed sex/gender dif­fer­ences in brain and behav­ior (nature or nur­ture), human brains can­not be cat­e­go­rized into two dis­tinct class­es: male brain/female brain.

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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