Inthe last ten years, the use of more sensitive imaging techniques, inthe field of neuroscience, has developed an amazing rate. As aresult, it has facilitated better comprehension of both thefunctioning and the way the brain develops. Nevertheless, the brainresearch findings is inadequately diffused in the field of education,in spite, of the knowledge advance. On the other hand, the expandingbrain knowledge has assisted, over time, in understanding whethercertain mechanisms observed in animal studies are relevant to humans.Furthermore, the discovery of both cognitive and structural genderdifferences, inside the brain, could have potential consequences inthe society.
Forcenturies, gross observations and other subtle differences have beenused to insist, ideologically, that an average woman brain differsfrom that of a man. Current research provides evidence regarding theway female brains are structured differently, and use chemicalsystems in a special way, to change under the impact of hormones.Also, studies show that various factors that contribute to the genderbehaviors, including, gonadal hormones, genes, socialization andcognitive development are associated with gender. Presently, thestudy of sex differences is a controversial issue therefore, thereason I chose to focus on this intriguing topic with majorimplications in gender and cultural biases.
Thefirst difference, between the female and male brains, is their sizeand weight. On average, men have larger brains than women. However,their IQs are equal. The weight of an adult human brain averages at1.5kg (3.3 lb). In males, brains are 10% larger and weigh 12% morethan female brains due to their larger physique (Brizendine 3). Thesedifferences are also present at birth where a male child’s brain is12-20% bigger than that of a girl (Brizendine 3). Although women`sbrain is smaller in structure and size than that of males, their IQis equal to that of males. Researchers found out that the overallsize differences can be explained by the specific parts of the brainthat are differently sized. For example, the hypothalamus is thearea of the brain that regulates female reproductive behavior. Thepart connects to the pituitary glands. In non-human, such as rats,the pituitary is visibly larger in males than in females. The sizedifference originates from hormonal control. In her book The FemaleBrain, Brizendine provides the visible physical differences betweenthe female and male brains. The differing structures and the makeupof hormones work jointly to generate different perceptions of anindividual`s environment the way they interact with others (4).Further, the author provides that more than 99% of the genetic codingin an adult human brain is similar (5). However, the 1% difference isresponsible for the influence of the way emotions, feelings andthoughts are transmitted (Brizendine 5).
Developmentaland Structural Differences
Accordingto Balthazart, it is widely known that female brains mature earlierthan in males (12). Besides, scientists have discovered that girlstend to optimize brain connections earlier than boys do. Their mindsstart to mature from age ten, while in some males, they have to waituntil age 15-20 years to achieve the same organizational structures(Balthazart 9). Researchers conclude that females mature faster, inspecific cognitive and emotional areas,compared to males duringchildhood and adolescents. For example, women acquire their verbalskills earlier than men do, and usually, they learn to read fastercompared to their male counterparts. These differences appear topersist throughout the development stages, and female brains developquicker than male brains (Balthazart 10).
Theoverall Corpus callosum size is another structural difference infemale brains. These neurons join emotion and cognition. In afemale, this striking feature is approximately 20% larger than inmales (Balthazart 15). Their ability to transfer data between theleft and right hemisphere of the brain is faster, and this explainsthe reason they are better in decision-making and sensory processingskills than men. Indeed, men seem to be more left brained whilefemales can significantly access both sides of the brain. Balthazartreveals that the frontal lobe, which plays a vital role indecision-making, problem solving and the limbic cortex that regulatesemotions, are larger in females (16). Besides, women have largequantity of the white matter that connects the processing centers ofthe brain. Men, on the other hand, have large quantity of the graymatter, which is approximately 6.5 times that in the brain`sinformation processing centers (16). While women exploit the whitematter, which has more connections between the neurons and cognition,men think with the gray matter that consists of active neurons. In myopinion, despite the difference in the structure of women brains,they end up achieving the same thing, most probably, because they areorganized differently (Balthazart 10).
Thefemale brain is known to release a significant amount of oxytocin.This compound is produced by the pituitary glands and plays a role asa neurotransmitter in the brain. As a result, the hormone plays asignificant role in social recognition, bonding, and show of quickand emphatic responses to other individuals. According to Brizendine,women brains have been found to process code and remember emotionalsituations more effectively (4). The author further suggests thatfemale focus more on emotional events and they end up suffering fromhigh rates of clinical depression. This is in support of theevolutionary theory of behavior, which assumes that women developcertain emotional traits such as nurturing, sensitivity and beingoverly concerned. It further explains their excellent capability tomaintain a stable family structure, as well as, raising theirchildren (Brizendine 5).
Thehormonal difference is the most striking distinction between thefemale and the male brains. While the testosterone hormones dominatein men, estrogen and progesterone are available in large quantity inwomen. The hormones have contrasting effects in men and women. Forinstance, the progesterone is responsible for female growth, whilethe testosterone is the male growth hormone that also influencesaggression and sex drive (Kimura 4). Kimura links testosterone togender-related behavior and brain development. From observation, menseem to be more aggressive compared to females. Women are morenurturing than males who usually engage in rough plays (4). Theimpact of sex hormones on the organization of female brains occursearly in life, and this is evident from the way the brains of youngboys and girls are structured in different ways. As a result, certaincognitive tasks depict sex differences despite the generalintelligence of male and female being the same (Kimura 6).
Inher book, Kimura states that both men and women share the samegenetic material. However, the differing in capability is as a resultof varying hormonal influences on their developing brains (8).Moreover, damage to either hemisphere in women associated withdifficulties in organizing a speech. According to Kimura, thesedisparities start early in life during the development of the fetus(8). The author adds that the differences are visible in adeveloping fetus where the ultrasound scanner shows the corpuscallosum in female fetuses to be thicker in measurement than in malefetuses (9).
Dailyhormonal changes in women occur within the females’ brain.Consequently, the brain changes and this creates a change in valuesand desires. Additionally, performance on certain tasks changesbecause of alterations in estrogen levels. Brizendine states thatthe neurological reality in women is not constant compared to that ofa man (6). As a result, women have the extreme ability to take inemotional signals, and this allows them to engage in emotionalmirroring or activate similar emotional responses by imagining, orobserving another person in a particular emotional state.Additionally, females outperform their male counterparts in humanrelations and carrying out preplanned tasks (Brizendine 5).
Accordingto O’Connor and Joffe, physiologically, women’s brains metabolizeglucose at a high rate to increase their blood flow (12). Theycontrast the male brains. Besides, PET scans, MRI, and other brainimaging technologies have revealed that the female brain is moreactive than the male brain (12). The female brains have many thingsgoing on and are never at rest. It is in contrast to the male brainsthat are not as active, and usually, takes a break after tasks. Forexample, a study involving brain imaging show how the doctoralstudent solves math`s problems portraying the apparent structuralbrain-based gender differences in the way both men and women solvemathematics (O’Connor and Joffe 20).
Differencesin Emotion Processing
Inmy opinion, emotion processing is a crucial area of brain-basedstudy. Compared to male, the female brain has a higher emotiveability. Evidently, females can guide their emotions. Alternatively,the male brains barely convey feelings because they only use theright hemisphere. While language is on the left side of their malebrain, the emotions are located on the right. This is in contrast tothe female brain where emotions are in both hemispheres, and thisexplains why men have a hard time to communicating their feelings. For this reason, both males and females should be well understood toprotect them emotionally. O’Connor and Joffe point out that boysare usually emotionally fragile compared to girls (20).
Learningand Intellectual Differences
Thesedifferences explain why men and women are good at different things.While men are better at spatial tasks such as navigating andmathematics, women on the other end are good at using words andverbal memory, remembering landmarks and objects (Gould 3).Physically, female brains reflect the unique responses to challenges.However, their minds continue to change with expectations. Inadditional, Women and men differ in how they solve intellectualproblems. Activities daily lives demonstrate men perform better oncertain spatial tasks. Notably, they outperform women in tests thatneed one to envision an object and manipulating it (Gould 4). They dobetter in mathematical thinking tests and in finding their waythrough a given route. Further, they are more accurate intarget-directed motor skills.
Onthe other hand, on average women excel on tests that involvememorization and recalling of words. In his article Women`s Brains,Gould analyzed a study conducted in the 19th century to demonstratewomen intelligence and found out that women tend to be better atidentifying and matching items. In a research by Paul Broca andGustave Le Bon, the brains of dead men and women were collected fromhospital and weighed to make a comparison. These scientists came upwith a conclusion that the female brains weighed less compared tothat of their male counterparts. They argued that women are inferiorcreatures in every way and involving them in anything is acatastrophe. However, in this article, Gould made counterarguments tothis study and stated that the sample size was very small and limited(5). Furthermore, he argued that the size of the brain isforthrightly proportional to height. Therefore, he stated that theweight of a brain cannot be used to give an accurate representationof an individual’s intelligence (Gould 6).
However,researchers have warned against stating that the brains of girls andboys are different. According to O’Connor and Joffe, at an earlyage, the differences are small but become magnified one the childreninteract in a culture that is gender influenced (7). Women’s brainpossess an additional region of that is more active compared to men’sbrain. Therefore, in comparison with men`s brains women brains appearmore organized. For example, speech production and particular handmovement managed by their frontal areas of the left hemisphere. Useof the frontal lobes makes them more efficient. In their article,O’Connor and Joffe analyzed how science communication in the NewMedia Environment is conducted. The authors analyzed sex differencesand how they can be absorbed in the society to uphold genderstereotypes, values, and norms. They portray that mediarepresentations can impose cultural agenda into scientificinformation (O’Connor and Joffe 20).
Inconclusion, apart from the visible differences, such as physicalattributes and reproductive roles, men and women differ in many othercharacteristics. In the past, these behavioral disparities wererecognized as minimal and termed only as developmental effects beforeand after adolescent. However, today, more evidence has beenaccumulated to show the impact of sex hormones on the brainorganization, and how it is wired differently in the minds boys andgirls. The paper has analyzed these differences that start from thephysical brain structure, where studies show that some, areas ofwomen brains are made up of more nerve cells than men’s brains are.In addition, the male brains are bigger in size than women’s brainsare. Other differences extend to the brain operations where studiesdemonstrate how women use both the right and the left side of thebrain. On the contrary, men use only the left parts of the brains tocomplete tasks. This is probably the reason why women are better inmultitasking than their male peers are. Researchers have discoveredthat the body begins secreting these powerful hormones during earlylife development and in later stages of life. They believe that theinfluence of either estrogen or testosterone determines whether thebrain system of a human is wired as a male or a female. In light ofthis information, clinical imaging studies can help in identifyingthe sex orientation of an individual. Neurologists observe thecharacteristics of normal brains, and then, use the varying sexdifferences in determining the gender of the sample brains underobservation.
Balthazart,J. BrainDevelopment and Sexual Orientation.San Rafael, Calif.: Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences, 2012. Print.
Brizendine,Louann. The Female Brain. London: Bantam, 2009. Print.
Gould,Stephen J. ThePanda`s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History.New York: Norton, 1992, ©1980. Print.
Kimura,Doreen. SexDifferences in the Brain: The Relation between Structure andFunction.Burlington: Elsevier, 1984. Print.
O`Connor,Cliodhna and HeleneJoffe. Genderon the Brain: A Case Study of Science Communication in the New MediaEnvironment. PLoSONE 9(10): e110830. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110830.