Scientists now know that sex hormones begin to exert their influence during development of the fetus. A recent study examined male and female brains found distinct differences in the developing fetus at just 26 weeks of pregnancy. The disparities could be seen using an ultrasound scanner.
The corpus callosum – the bridge of nerve tissue that connects the right and left sides of the brain — had a thicker measurement in female fetuses than in male fetuses.
“Females seem to have language functioning in both sides of the brain” to confirm this, researchers scientists , use brain imaging technology that captures blood flow to “working” parts of the brain, to analyze how men and women process language. All subjects listened to a novel. When males listened, only the left hemisphere of their brains was activated. The brains of female subjects, however, showed activity on both the left and right hemispheres.
This activity across both hemispheres of the brain may result in the strong language skills typically displayed by females. “If there’s more area dedicated to a set of skills, it follows that the skills will be more refined” says a professor of psychological sciences.
Boys also fall prey to learning disabilities more frequently than girls. Clinics see a preponderance of boys with dyslexia ,ADHD also strikes more boys than girls. The symptoms displayed by girls and boys with ADHD differ, too. Girls with ADHD usually exhibit inattention, while affected boys are prone to lack of impulse control. But not all differences favor girls.
Boys generally demonstrate superiority over female peers in areas of the brain involved in math and geometry. These areas of the brain mature about four years earlier in boys than in girls, the same researchers found that areas of the brain involved in language and fine motor skills (such as handwriting) mature about six years earlier in girls than in boys.
Male brains, for instance, are about 10% larger than female brains. But bigger doesn’t necessarily mean smarter.
Disparities in how certain brain substances are distributed may be more revealing. Notably, male brains contain about 6.5 times more gray matter — sometimes called ‘thinking matter” — than women. Female brains have more than 9.5 times as much white matter, the stuff that connects various parts of the brain, than male brains. That’s not all. The frontal area of the cortex and the temporal area of the cortex are more precisely organized in women, and are bigger in volume”.
When it comes to performing activities that require spatial skills, like navigating directions, men generally do better. “Women use the cerebral cortex for solving problems that require navigational skills. Men use an entirely different area, mainly the left hippocampus — a nucleus deep inside the brain that’s not activated in the women’s brains during navigational tasks.
While the brain allows us to think, it also drives our emotions. It may not come as a surprise, then, that the ability to identify and control emotions varies between sexes. Women are faster and more accurate at identifying emotions because studies have shown women to be more adept than men at encoding facial differences and determining changing vocal intonations.