The Differences Between Male and Female Brains

Source: NYMag, Apr 2017

… three of the key findings from the paper Ritchie and his colleagues just posted:

(1) Yes, there do appear to be many differences between male and female brains, but there’s also tons of overlap. The researchers examined all sorts of potential sites of male/female differences, and found many such differences. But with many of these brain areas, there’s a lot of variation, and a large range of sizes for which it could be safely said that a given brain could be either stereotypically male or female, as this graph shows:

the most noteworthy difference was that the men in the sample simply had larger brains in general, which isn’t surprising because men are larger than women, in general. They also tended to have denser brains and more white matter. At the level of individual structures, there were also statistically significant differences, some of them more pronounced than others

(2) These differences could, in the long run, help explain and provide treatment for diseases that tend to hit one sex harder than the other. “As has previously been argued,” the researchers write, “providing a clear characterisation of neurobiological sex differences is a step towards understanding patterns of differential susceptibility to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, a variety of psychiatric conditions, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.”

There is, at this point, solid evidence of certain robust differences between adult male and female brains, but it’s just too early to know exactly what those differences mean — or why there’s also so much overlap.


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