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Scientists Prove Men And Women Do Not Have Different Brains

Scientists Prove Men And Women Do Not Have Different Brains

It has been suggested over the years that differences between men and women can be attributed to differently developed brains. Some think that men are better at analytics while women are more expressive, while others believe that such a difference shows that men and women are better at different academic subjects.

But a brain study appears to demonstrate that any differences between the male and female brain are highly limited. The study, done by the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, debunks the idea that the hippocampus is larger in females than in males.

What did the scientists do?

The researchers worked by looking at more than 6,000 MRI scans. The study did not actually scan the brains themselves, but instead conducted a meta-analysis which allowed researchers to combine the findings of many individual studies into one comprehensive reviews. The study looked at 76 published papers on the brain altogether and used the data to come to the conclusion that male and female brains are generally similar.

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What does this study mean?  

The hippocampus is an area of the brain located in the medial temporal lobe. It plays a crucial role in such things as handling short and long-term memories as well as navigation. Alzheimer’s disease effects the hippocampus early on, which leads to the disease’s well-known trait of memory loss.

Many people have stated that women have a larger hippocampus than men. This did not mean that women were smarter than men. But it did mean that male and female brains were supposed to be better or worse at different things.

For example, one website states, “Scientists believe that a larger hippocampus may explain females’ strong social skills. “ Meanwhile in men, the amygdala and the hypothalamus were supposed to be larger, which explained why men enjoys contact sports more, are more sexually active, and are more assertive.

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Social constructs, not biology

But as Lise Eliot, the associate professor of neuroscience at Rosalind observed, “As we explore multiple datasets and are able to coalesce very large samples of males and females, we find these differences often disappear or are trivial.”

Consequently, these assumptions that the different size of the hippocampus results in different behaviors between males and females are incorrect. It is thus reasonable to assume that it is social factors rather than biological factors which are the primary drivers for much of these supposed differences between the two sexes.

For example, men may be more sexually active just because society has different standards for a man who is sexually active and a woman who is. The former may sometimes be portrayed positively as a virile and healthy individual, while a woman almost never is.

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Other brain size myths

Furthermore, the hippocampus is not only the part of the brain which should be looked at differently. It was assumed for years that men and women did not have the same size corpus callosum and splenium. These two things are parts of the brain which helps enable communications between the right and left halves of the brain, much like a Wilson cell phone signal booster.

Meta-analysis of MRI scans of these two regions of the body showed that there are no real size differences between the female brains in regards to these two parts. The study argues that a simple look at the ratio of splenium and corpus callosum size to total brain size produces inaccurate results, and a meta-analysis is better especially since it relies on more advanced scanning technologies.

A new look at gender stereotyping

Far too often, people want to pass off societal differences between men and women, or between a black and white men, as some fact of nature which cannot be changed. But just as phrenology was debunked some 150 years ago, so too do these assistants shows that common assumptions about brain size are mistaken.

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As Dr. Eliot noted, “Many people believe there is such a thing as a ‘male brain’ and a ‘female brain.’ But when you look beyond the popularized studies — at collections of all the data — you often find that the differences are minimal.”

Men are not alien creatures from Mars, nor are women alien creatures from Venus. And it will be better when society can properly understand their brains and not fall back to tradition or nature to defend the normal stereotypes.

Featured photo credit: Young couple lying on grass smiling at camera on a summers day via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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