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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 September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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