The brains of men and women are, on average, not that different, a new study finds.
The research focused on a brain structure called the hippocampus.
The hippocampus — which is vital for memory and other functions — was thought to be bigger in women than men.
A larger hippocampus was thought to explain why women have:
- better verbal memory,
- stronger interpersonal skills,
- and greater emotional expressiveness.
Men and women’s hipppocampi are a similar size, however, a team at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine in the US has found.
The study follows from others which have debunked other supposed differences between the brains of men and women:
- The corpus callosum — a structure which connects the brains’ two hemispheres — was thought to be different in men and women.
- The two hemispheres were thought to process language in different ways in men and women.
Both these claims have since been debunked.
Dr Lise Eliot, who led the study, said:
“Sex differences in the brain are irresistible to those looking to explain stereotypic differences between men and women.
They often make a big splash, in spite of being based on small samples.
But 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.”
The study — a ‘meta-analysis’ — looked at 76 published papers which included results from over 6,000 people.
Dr Eliot continued:
“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.”
The study was published in the journal NeuroImage (Tan et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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