Are Brains Different for Males and Females?
Can brains be classified as male or female? Learn what recent studies show about how our brains are wired.
Are brains different for males and females?
This is a question that many people ask. Most of us attribute the difference between males and females to how they are wired. The stereotype that the brains of these two genders are different stem from earlier studies that reviewed the way brains are connected.
Among the first studies is one done in 2008 and it was focused on the function of the frontal cortex. It reported that various areas developed differently. More developed areas related to behavioral traits as well as areas of excellence. Both males and females showed better development in different areas of the brain relating to their gender differences.
One of the largest studies conducted years later, Sex Differences in the Structural Connectome of the Human Brain, supports this theory. The findings based on 428 males and 521 females from ages 8 to 22, backed earlier findings of a similar research. The research done in the University of Pennsylvania and published in 2013 notes that male brains are geared towards perception and coordination, while females are tuned towards social skills and memory.
Unveiling the Myth
Both studies based results on scans showing, the brain. However, the most recent study based on magnetic resonance imaging or MRI’s shows that this may not be true at all. The research entitled Sex Beyond the Genitalia, The Human Brain Mosaic was published in November of 2015.
Conducted by researchers from the Tel Aviv University lead by Daphna Joel, the study looks into brain scans of more than 1,400 males and females of different ages. While earlier studies looked only at specific areas of the brain to distinguish differences in traits and behaviors according to gender, this study focused on the entire brain.
In order to validate sex differences in the brain, it must display a variety of consistent structures that can be classified as either male or female. Differences in grey matter, white matter and more were reviewed. Of the scans studied, the team was able to identify 29 different regions in the brain where differences between males and females could be found. It was within these regions that dissimilarities were searched for.
Certain structural differences were noted between the brains of males and females. Size differed in certain areas for both genders. Connectivity also displayed differences for both. However, when each region was studied, the team found that there were no longer any distinct similarities.
So, do brains have male or female traits? The team found that there were very few brains which displayed consistency in being male or female. In both evaluations, less than 10 percent of the brains from both genders displayed consistent traits of being either male or female. Only six percent of 281 brains and only 2.4 percent of more than 600 brains displayed being consistently male or female.
The Truth Revealed: Is There a Male and Female Brain?
What Dr. Joel and her team discovered was that the scans revealed that each brain displayed its own unique pattern in accordance to maleness and femaleness. Rather than distinct patterns, the brain contains a mosaic that corresponds to traits and behaviors of people. There are no set patterns that distinguish males from females, or classify brains as such. Patterns are unique and may contain a number of female characteristics or male characteristics producing a mosaic or mixture of characteristics.
Therefore, a male or female can have any number of traits or behaviors that are associated with the opposite sex, or that of their own. Having more “male” or “female” distinctions within the brain does not classify it as such. While there are a few number of people that may have dominant male only traits, or female only traits it is very rare or very hard to find.
The lack of differences in the patterns of males and females suggest that there is no distinct difference between the brains of the two sexes. There is, therefore, not just a single type of male brain or a single type of female brain. The study shows that earlier findings regarding sex differences found within the brain are false after carefully being re-analyzed.
The gender of a person therefore, is not a determining factor for behaviors and traits. According to lead researcher Daphna Joel, the lack of distinct difference that can be classified as male or female suggests that there may be no gendered brain after all. Dr. Joel and her team further explored this theory by examining the personality traits and behaviors of more than 5500 men and women. It was found that gender specific traits do not exist and both sexes display equal interest in the same things.
Consequently, the lack of gender for the brain eliminates the relation between how men or women behave because of their gender. In the end, the answer to the question “Are brains different for males and females?” is a simple no.