Van: CNN.com, 15-02-2005.
Brainpower as easy as X and Y
It's an argument that's as old as it is contentious: that male and female brains
It's also spawned countless self-help books (think "Men Are From Mars, Women Are
From Venus") and bland jokes about women being unable to read maps, or men never
asking for directions.
It's a brave expert who'll chart a course through these
But that hasn't stopped Michael Gurian, psychologist and
author of "What Could He Be Thinking?".
He believes there are about a hundred structural differences
that have been identified between the male and female brain.
"Men, because we tend to compartmentalize our communication
into a smaller part of the brain, we tend to be better at getting right to the
issue," he said.
"The more female brain (will) gather a lot of material,
gather a lot of information, feel a lot, hear a lot, sense a lot," he said.
Scientists say males have more activity in mechanical centers
of the brain, whereas females show more activity in verbal and emotional
The differences can be noticed from early childhood, Gurian
said, such as when an adult gives a child a doll.
"That doll becomes life-like to that girl, but you give it to
a two-year-old boy and you are more likely, not all the time, but you are more
likely than not to see that boy try to take the head off the doll," he said.
"He thinks spatial-mechanical. He's using the doll as an
To find out why these differences exist, scientists have
taken voyages deep inside the gray matter using MRI scans.
The scans show that in most women, the corpus callosum area,
which handles communication between the brain's two "hemispheres", is larger.
In layman's terms, it means that the two sides of the female
brain "talk" better to each other -- which could explain why studies show women
tend to multi-task better.
On the other hand, the scans show men tend to move
information more easily within each hemisphere.
It all boils down to genes, according to Dr. Marianne Legato
Partnership for Gender Specific Medicine Columbia University.
Women are born with two X chromosomes, and men with an X and
"And on that Y chromosome are at least 21 unique genes unique
to males which control many of the body's operations down to the level of the
cells," Dr Legato said.
She also said those genetic differences explain other
differences, like why men can drink more alcohol than women without becoming
"Women do not have the enzyme in their stomach that degrades
alcohol which men have," she said.
Unfortunately it doesn't explain why some men leave the
toilet seat up, or some women can't take out the garbage.
CNN's Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.
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