The truth about men and women’s brains

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Period pain doesnt only make women feel miserable. It also affects their brain power.

London - Men! Useless at discerning a woman’s true feelings, deaf as a post when a baby is crying and utterly incapable of performing more than one task at a time.

Women! Forever getting overemotional, completely hopeless at map-reading and liable to go into meltdown at the prospect of parallel parking.

Men and women moan continually about the supposed shortcomings of the opposite sex — but now brain scientists have found a real reason for the stereotypical differences in male and female behaviour.

Women’s and men’s brains are wired in fundamentally different ways.

Neurologists used magnetic resonance imaging (radio-wave scans that produce detailed images of the inside of the body) to study the brains of almost 1 000 volunteers.

The differences between the genders were so profound that men and women might almost be separate species.

Men generally have more connections within each hemisphere and between the front and back of the brain.

In women the stronger connections usually run from side to side, between the left and right hemispheres.

In essence, what this means is that men are more logical and better at coordination and spatial awareness. Women are more intuitive, have greater “emotional intelligence” and better memories for words and faces.

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Ragini Verma, of the University of Pennsylvania, who led the study, concludes that male brains are geared “to link perception with doing” — so men would be better at, for example, learning a new sport.

Female brains, meanwhile, are configured to handle matters of heart and mind and to study others’ behaviour, then interpret it using intuition and analysis.



The fact that female brains have many more interconnections may help to explain a conundrum that has long puzzled scientists: why women can show just as much intelligence as men even though their brains are eight percent smaller.

In March, a study by universities in Los Angeles and Madrid showed that, for women, brain size does not matter because their brains are more efficient.

Their highly networked neurons can perform complex tasks that use less energy and fewer brain cells.

The study found that women perform better than men at “bigger-picture” thinking and keeping track of a changing situation. Men do better on spatial intelligence.



The male ability to process information set out in abstract ways — such as maps, which are abstractions of the landscape — was investigated last year by US neuroscientists, who asked groups of men and women to study a complex diagram and draw what it would look like if turned around.

Men could do this faster and better than women. In fact, brain scans showed they had more activity in four areas of the brain associated with decision-making, focusing closely on a task and visualising.



The male brain might be good at deciphering a car-repair manual but it’s not much good at decoding social context or emotions — as any new mum will know as she rushes to comfort her crying baby and almost trips over her partner still glued to the football on TV.

But the child’s father may not be feigning oblivion. When Italian scientists brain-scanned men and women listening to a hungry baby’s cries, they found that activity in the women’s brains promptly reduced in two areas called the dorsal medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate.

These are where we do our “mind-wandering” — daydreaming or planning things. So the women were jolted into acting in the “now”, where the needs of a bawling child are paramount. The men simply carried on daydreaming.



Another trait that infuriates women is men’s indifference to their partner’s shifting emotions. Here, the problem seems literally to be an inability to see eye to eye.

According to German psychiatrists, the eyes are truly a window to a woman’s soul. “They remain one of the richest sources of social information for the attribution of mental states to others,” says Boris Schiffer, a researcher at LWL-University Hospital in Bochum.

But men are only half as good as women at interpreting a woman’s emotions by looking into her eyes, according to Dr Schiffer. His research suggests that women show increased activity in areas of the brain that regulate emotion and memory — the limbic regions —when looking into another woman’s eyes. Men’s brains generally show less activity here.

Men are also generally less good at recognising faces, according to other research. Women seem able to do this automatically.



Likewise, men have to work harder at multi-tasking. The research published this week indicates that this is again down to differences in brain “wiring”. Women’s highly connected brains make it easier to juggle challenges.

Actually, previous research suggested that men aren’t worse at multi-tasking but simply dislike it much more and get grumpy quicker when forced to do it.



The genders also respond to pain differently. It has been known for years that women feel pain more than men. Most chronic pain sufferers are women, and twice as many women as men get migraines.

Indeed, when it comes to migraines, the highly connected, emotionally sensitive female brain might be the problem.

A recent study of migraines by experts at Harvard Medical School’s Centre for Pain and the Brain suggests that women’s and men’s migraines are different.

Their MRI scans of sufferers showed that women’s “emotional circuitry” played an active role in their migraines far more than men’s. This suggests that stress and negative feelings such as anger may play a much greater role in sparking women’s migraines.

In fact, emotions seem to play a much greater role in magnifying the intensity of pain felt by women. Canadian investigators have shown that, while women generally report their pain sensations as being much more intense than men’s, the disparity does not result from any difference in chemical pain messages. Rather, it seems to be determined by the amount of anxiety the women are experiencing.



There is, however, one exception — man flu. This year, scientists at Durham University revealed that this phenomenon really does exist. The cause lies in men’s brains.

Men suffer more with coughs and colds because they have extra temperature receptors in the brain and so experience worse symptoms.



Men and women also respond to pain differently.

In men it tends to trigger a “fight or flight” response, while women are most likely to “tend and befriend”. This may arise from differences in the amygdala, a part of the brain linked to stress reactions.

Larry Cahill, a professor at the University of California, has found that a man’s amygdala appears to be more active on the anger-related right side, a woman’s on the left, which connects to an area governing emotions and self-awareness.

So men under stress want to go for a run or have space to themselves. Women under stress typically want to talk with friends.

Thus science confirms what we have all long suspected anyway — that men and women really are poles apart. - Daily Mail

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