Male and female brains aren’t that disparate after all, a recent study published on Monday, November 30 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has revealed.
Experts led by Daphna Joel, psychobiologist at the Tel Aviv University, first examined brain scans pertaining to 112 women and 169 men, aged 18 to 79, in order to identify potential differences between female brains and male brains, by analyzing 10 separate regions consisting of grey matter.
They rated those brain sections based on how easily their structure could be associated with a certain gender, by assessing some features as more common among men, and others as more prevalent among women.
Although they identified certain portions which were more specific to males or to females, overall they found no evidence of actual dimorphism when it came to human brains.
A measly 6% of all the brains analyzed by experts had characteristics pertaining to one sex only, across all 10 regions that had been taken into account. The vast majority of people actually had a combination of such traits, displaying both female and male elements.
Researchers then conducted a follow-up study, which focused on an even larger number of participants. A total of 600 brain MRIs (magnetic resonance images) were investigated this time, and it was determined that as few as 2.4% of the subjects, aged between 18 and 26, had neural tissue which could fall entirely into one category: male or female.
The rest of the individuals displayed much more heterogeneous brain structures, consisting of male-like regions, combined with female-like ones. In fact, significant irregularities were encountered among 52% of the people whose brain scans had been reviewed.
Basically, as researchers explain, if we imagine male and female brain characteristics as a continuum, it is much more common for a person to have certain brain regions which would qualify as feminine, combined with others that would be best described as masculine.
Therefore, the preconception that female brains and male brains are completely dissimilar should be discarded, and replaced with this much more accurate approach, which focuses on the staggering variability of brain tissue, regardless of the gender of the person it may belong to.
Lise Eliot, who works as a neuroscientist at Rosalind Franklin University in Chicago, is in full assent with these new findings, emphasizing the fact that just like it would be ludicrous to refer to a female heart or a male heart, it’s equally fallacious to assume that women and men have entirely different brains.
Nonetheless, a prior research paper, published in 2014 by scientists from Cambridge University had claimed that brain volume among men tends to be approximately 8 to 13% higher than that measured among women.
It had also identified major differences in brain structure, when it came to regions influencing emotions (the limbic system) and language (the left frontal lobe).
Similarly, other experts had placed emphasis on the effects of sex hormones on the brain, insisting that estrogen production makes neural tissue more feminine, whereas high levels of testosterone lead to the opposite effect.
However, now that former theory has been refuted, as it was proven that brain development is actually influenced by a much larger array of factors, such as genetic inheritance, epigenetic interactions (which determine which genes should be activated) and environmental stimuli (stress, pollution etc.)
Therefore, since brains are actually so eerily similar between sexes, it may be that even gender roles have no actual basis in reality.
Although it’s much more convenient to assign specific personality labels to males, while stating that females are completely opposite, in fact such social expectations are inherently flawed, and should be re-evaluated.
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