WASHINGTON D.C. – Men and women share the same brain features, as revealed in a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers led by neuroscientist Daphna Joel from Tel Aviv University in Israel found there is a mix of male and female characteristics in all human brains, which means that gender classifications are no longer considerable in many situations.
It had been thought since the mid-19th century that the brain was significantly related to the individual’s sex. These results will certainly change the way scientists approach the brain and how society defines gender.
“Our study demonstrates that although there are sex/gender differences in brain structure, brains do not fall into two classes, one typical of males and the other typical of females, nor are they aligned along a ‘male brain–female brain’ continuum,” study authors wrote in the journal.
Instead, each brain has a “unique mosaic of features”, in spite of small groups of brain features that show consistency towards one gender or the other. This marks the first research that has been ever done to study sex differences across the human brain as a whole, without specifically looking into individual characteristics such as size and amount of gray matter compared to white matter.
Researchers analyzed the existing Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 1,400 individuals in the wide age range from 13 to 85. They started by looking for gender differences but only found a few minor disparities. For instance, men are more likely to have a larger amygdala, which is an emotion-related area, and they also tend to have a greater left hippocampus, a region linked to memory, than women. Such modest differences are highly influenced by the environment.
Even though the study supports the already spread idea that brain is not binary, the results will still surprise the scientific community, commented Bruce McEwen from the Rockefeller University in New York. He added that the findings help to raise awareness of the complexity among the ‘male’ and ‘female’ concepts.
From Europe, Markus Hausmann from Durham University, UK, said that he had been since long ago studying minor sex differences in cognition and discovered that, in terms of spatial skills, very few are associated with gender. For example, he and his colleagues have found that some men present better spatial awareness than women.
Regarding cultural paradigms, Margaret McCarthy from the University of Maryland in Baltimore has found that career choices have nothing to do with biological differences, which refutes cultural expectations.
Joel concludes that separation between boys and girls based only in their gender is wrong politically and scientifically. It is a matter of social convention that should be eradicated.
Source: Washington Post