His Brain, Her Brain
By Larry Cahill
To say that men and women are different wouldn’t be declaring anything anyone doesn’t already know, but scientists want to know why; through tests and research, studies have shown that our brains might be structurally, chemically, and functionally different. This raises the likelihood that sex-specific treatments might need to be developed when dealing with a wide variety of mental disorders.
Until recently, scientists believed that the differences between male and female brains were limited only to their ‘…mating behavior…’; however, a sudden increase in research accenting the influence of sex on an assortment of cognitions and behavior (such as, ‘…memory, emotion, vision, hearing and the response to stress hormones) has since come to light. These studies have been accelerated by advances in technology and the availability of ‘sophisticated imaging techniques’ such as the PET and fMRI. These machines expose dissimilarities in an assortment of areas in the brain.
One such study, conducted by Jill M. Goldstein of Harvard Medical School, involved the use of the MRI to measure the sizes of cortical and subcortical areas. Results indicated a bulkier frontal cortex, as well as parts of the limbic system, in women; these areas are relative to cognitive functioning and emotional response. One the other hand, men were discovered to have a larger parietal cortex and amygdala; areas that control space perception and adrenaline flow.
Studies have also been done on the differences in stress-response in relation to the amygdala and hippocampi of men and women. Rat experiments, involving separation anxiety of babies, show that stressful situations caused an increase in serotonin production in males and a decrease in females; thought it is hard to juxtapose this information over to children, it could suggest that ‘…separation anxiety might differentially affect the emotional well-being of male and female children…’....
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