Different But Equal – SEX AND THE BRAIN
I recently reblogged an article from my friend MADD suspicions about male and female brain types.
Click here to have a go at the fun quiz he found.
Also I’ve been reading, laughing and learning psychology from the witty and suave but spiky PinkAgendist. Stop by if you enjoy perceptive pieces.
And of course other fine blogs I haven’t time to mention now, but will soon.
We all affect each other.
Their posts led me to think about thinking – always fun but a slightly weird experience as well.
In my more political posts I’m calling for a paradigm shift in human affairs to move from a male-managed world to a female- and child-friendly future.
With cooperation rather than competition as the guiding principle.
No violence. Local organisation of life. Less people.
Women managing human society and reproduction.
No nation states and therefore no armies, weapons of mass destruction and no National Security.
But for this argument to make sense there must be actual differences between the sexes – not just differences we learn in life – but innate differences.
So yesterday I argued that we are all Equal But Different.
The title of this blog is Different But Equal
Let’s look at some differences now and start with brains.
How often have you heard men say, “I just can’t understand women…” or “My wife doesn’t understand me…”
Do women find men equally difficult to understand, or do they, on average, have more empathy and so can work men out?
Is there such a thing as female thinking or awareness? Can there be a ‘male’ type of thinking?
Are men and women more different or more the same?
And what about the brains of homosexual folk?
All interesting questions.
That’s why the relationship between sex differences in the brain and human behaviour is so controversial in psychology and society generally.
If there are real differences between the sexes then the implications are immense.
Recent studies show there are measurable differences in female and male brains.
For instance, there is a difference between sexes in the transcription of a gene pair involved in brain development unique to Homo sapiens.
Consequently female and male brains show differences in internal structure.
One of the main areas studied is the proportion of white matter relative to gray matter.
Gray matter is made up of neuronal cell bodies. The gray matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, and speech.
White matter is the tissue through which messages pass between different areas of gray matter within the nervous system.
So the gray matter can be thought of as the processing areas, while the white matter connects.
Blood flow is also different between women and men, with females able to move blood more quickly to the areas needed and not losing functions in old age as much as males.
There are also differences in the structure and size of certain areas in male and female brains.
Studies found men on average to have larger parietal lobes, responsible for sensory input including spatial sense and navigation.
Women usually have larger Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas, regions that are responsible for language processing.
Postmortem and imaging studies over the past two decades have revealed structural differences in both global structures and sexually-related brain structures between heterosexual and homosexual subjects.
Researcher Simon LeVay showed that parts of hypothalamus related to sexual orientation not gender.
The hypothalamus is an area known to be involved in sex differences in reproductive behaviour, mediating responses in menstrual cycles in women and the back of the hypothalamus regulates male-typical sexual behaviour.
These results were obtained from postmortem analysis of hypothalamic nuclei of known homosexual subjects compared to heterosexual patients.
The size of the brain’s hemispheres is a sexually dimorphic trait in which men tend to show asymmetry in the volumes of their hemispheres while women show more symmetry.
A recent study found homosexual men showed hemispheric volumes to be symmetric similar to heterosexual women and homosexual women showed asymmetry in hemispheric volumes as heterosexual men do.
However differences in brain physiology between the sexes and sexual preferences do not lead to differences in intellect.
This points to females and males taking different but equally successful routes to achieve the same outcomes.
Evidence for this was found in a 2004 study finding men and women achieve similar IQ results by utilising different brain regions.
So this suggests there is no singular underlying neuro-anatomical structure for general intelligence.
In simple language, different types of brains work equally well.
So, different but equal.
Equal but different.