Larry Summers was right. Men and women really are different. And not just hormonally. Science has now proved that the male brain and the female brain are wired differently.
What are blithely called sexual stereotypes have a basis in neuroanatomy.
The research into brain structure was not undertaken to disembarrass certain people of their bias. It was done in order to provide better treatment for neurological disorders. If a physician does not know the difference between the male and the female brain he will risk mistreating a patient.
The London Independent reports on the research results done at the University of Pennsylvania:
A pioneering study has shown for the first time that the brains of men and women are wired up differently which could explain some of the stereotypical differences in male and female behaviour, scientists have said.
Researchers found that many of the connections in a typical male brain run between the front and the back of the same side of the brain, whereas in women the connections are more likely to run from side to side between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
This difference in the way the nerve connections in the brain are “hardwired” occurs during adolescence when many of the secondary sexual characteristics such as facial hair in men and breasts in women develop under the influence of sex hormones, the study found.
The researchers believe the physical differences between the two sexes in the way the brain is hardwired could play an important role in understanding why men are in general better at spatial tasks involving muscle control while women are better at verbal tasks involving memory and intuition.
Apparently, the female brain has qualities that make women good mothers:
Because the female connections link the left hemisphere, which is associated with logical thinking, with the right, which is linked with intuition, this could help to explain why women tend to do better than men at intuitive tasks, she added.
“Intuition is thinking without thinking. It's what people call gut feelings. Women tend to be better than men at these kinds of skill which are linked with being good mothers,” Professor Verma said.
Men tend to outperform women involving spatial tasks and motor skills - such as map reading - while women tend to better in memory tests, such as remembering words and faces, and social cognition tests, which try to measure empathy and “emotional intelligence”
Now, we all want to know whether one type of brain is better than the other. Apparently, the jury is still out.
One psychologist concludes, for example, that women use much more of their brain power than do men. Many women have long suspected this, so it should not count as a revelation.
On the other hand, men who are less sensitive and intuitive can act more rapidly and more decisively. Presumably, this makes men better fighters than lovers.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:
What this means is that, at any given moment, a woman is likely to be using her whole brain while a man is using half of his, said Ruben Gur, a neuropsychologist who was one of the study authors. He struggled when asked if this structure makes men superior at anything.
In fairness, he said, "each hemisphere is really a complete human being," so it's possible to function at a high level while using one hemisphere. It does mean, though, that men really are more likely to be right-brained (more intuitive) or left-brained (more logical) than women.
The strong link with the cerebellum might make men more action oriented, better at tasks that require quick response time or an "I-see-and-then-I-do" attitude.
The side-to-side thinking likely boosts women's memory and social skills and seems designed, the authors said, to combine analytical and intuitive thinking. Communication within the hemisphere facilitates connection between perception and coordinated action.
Naturally, everyone wants to know whether these differences explain why men tend to do better than women in science and math. On this subject, the researchers refuse to opine.