A recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found significant differences in how neural networks are connected in the brains of men versus women, with male brains better structured to facilitate perceptio…
Well I seen it. (Hat tip Snowflakeespecial.) Here are some of my thoughts on the study.
What this study measures:
This study looks at networking between parts of the brain for males versus females. Rather than examining differences in the structure of discrete areas of the brain, the study attempts to measure the amount of interaction between different areas of the brain to infer how the brains of males and females function. This was done through tests allowing the researchers to draw a conclusion about the quantity of connections between brain cells in different parts of the brain.
Why this study is important:
Studies examining connectivity between parts of the brain have been around for a few decades and have established a link between experience, environment, and how the brain is “wired.” It has been established that the “wiring” of the brain is not entirely stable and changes across time. Among the many things which have been demonstrated to cause changes in the brain are severe trauma, drug and alcohol use, and spiritual practices such as meditation. These types of studies have also attempted to map differences between the functioning of male versus female brains, without providing much data of statistical significance. This particular study takes a large sample size (almost 1000) within a limited age range (8 to 22) and obtains differences in male versus female mapping that are statistically significant.
What I am analyzing this study for:
I am looking at the social implications of the findings of this study. I am not examining certain technical aspects of the methodology, such as the suitability of diffusion tensor imaging for this application and the way it was conducted and interpreted. This certainly needs to be done, but I am not qualified to do so.
What this study found:
Starting somewhere between the ages of 8 and 13, females begin forming more connections between their left and right brain hemispheres, while males form more connections within the same hemisphere. Males in the study showed greater connectivity in the areas of the brain dealing with sensory, spacial and motor processing. Most of this connectivity occurred in the right brain hemisphere, with the exception of motor processing, which showed greater interhemispheric coordination than for females. For females, there was greater interhemispheric coordination in the frontal area of the brain, which governs higher cognition, particularly in the 13-17 year age group. In the 17-22 year age group, females still showed greater interhemispheric coordination than males overall, but this coordination between left and right hemispheres was not specific to one part of the brain. These conclusions are consistent with other more general tests of female versus male performance on motor tasks, spatial memory, and language skills.
What all of this means:
According to this study, children begin thinking differently after age 8, and there are further differences in how girls and boys think. These differences can be measured not just by observation but by examining connectivity in the brains of girls and boys.
Some red flags for me in this study:
While a breakdown of results is shown overall for both genders, there is no breakdown shown for each age group, let alone for each age group by sex. This is a problem since the discussion of results mentions differences across age groups. I also question the early age group category of 8-13.3, since puberty typically occurs during the latter portion of this time period, particularly for girls, and thus this is not a reasonable prepubescent benchmark. The study was done at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which suggests that the sample, despite being large in size, came from the same school system and socioeconomic class. This in itself is not a flaw of the study, but outcomes might be different depending on quality of the educational system, economic opportunities, and exposure to violence. The use of the word “complementarity” in this study is a hint that its conception has sexist underpinnings: “Our findings support the notion that the behavioral complementarity between the sexes has developmental neural substrates that could contribute toward improved understanding of this complementarity.” While there is gender complementarity in some non-patriarchal indigenous cultures in the Americas and Western China, there is no complementarity in the population this study draws from or is directed toward; only asymmetry reflective of a subordinate female class. “Complementarity” is a code word in conservative religious circles justifying unfair treatment of women.
My biggest criticism of this study and others like it is that they are done at all. We are well aware by this point that brain structure is affected by environment, yet what these studies end up doing is reinforcing the idea that there are innate differences between the brains of boys and girls, men and women, not through any new meaningful data but through the implicit assumptions of the studies themselves. Even controlling for things like participation in sports, drug and alcohol use, learning a second language, and violence, there are still differences in socialization between the sexes that are too broad and varied to be accounted for. This study in particular made some heady claims: “The observations suggest that male brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action, whereas female brains are designed to facilitate communication between analytical and intuitive processing modes.” The study does nothing of the sort. It provides data on brain structure that mirrors observations made through other avenues, reflecting and corroborating information that possibly can be “explained” elsewhere.
Yes, but how will this affect the gender wars?
Documented difference in neural mapping between adolescent females and males, whatever the source of this difference, will likely charge the push to separate education between boys and girls in the upper grades. This is a complicated issue with disagreement even among feminists and liberals, and I am not going to wade into this debate again here, except to note that this study tends to support the faction advocating separation. As far as gender identity, it’s probably a wash. Virtually anyone complaining of gender dysphoria claims symptoms began in early childhood, but this study seems to indicate sex differentiation in the brain (from whatever cause) begins in adolescence. So the study does not support, and may even undermine, the hypothesis that transgender people have the brain of the opposite sex. But if the past is any predictor of the future, we can expect transactivists to misstate the findings of the study or pull elements out of context from the study or ignore the very real problems with the study to “prove” that female-only space should be abolished. This study is also ripe for misinterpretation by conservative Christians to justify patriarchal gender roles, and it may even have been designed with this in mind.
It sounds like you’ve read the study, anon. I haven’t seen it yet.
A new brain connectivity study from Penn Medicine published today in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences found striking differences in the neural wiring of men and women that’s lending credence to some commonly-held beliefs about their behavior.
In one of the largest studies looking at the “connectomes” of the sexes, Ragini Verma, PhD, an associate professor in the department of Radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues found greater neural connectivity from front to back and within one hemisphere in males, suggesting their brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action. In contrast, in females, the wiring goes between the left and right hemispheres, suggesting that they facilitate communication between the analytical and intuition.
“These maps show us a stark difference—and complementarity—in the architecture of the human brain that helps provide a potential neural basis as to why men excel at certain tasks, and women at others,” said Verma.
For instance, on average, men are more likely better at learning and performing a single task at hand, like cycling or navigating directions, whereas women have superior memory and social cognition skills, making them more equipped for multitasking and creating solutions that work for a group. They have a mentalistic approach, so to speak.
Past studies have shown sex differences in the brain, but the neural wiring connecting regions across the whole brain that have been tied to such cognitive skills has never been fully shown in a large population.
In the study, Verma and colleagues, including co-authors Ruben C. Gur, PhD, a professor of psychology in the department of Psychiatry, and Raquel E. Gur, MD, PhD, professor of Psychiatry, Neurology and Radiology, investigated the gender-specific differences in brain connectivity during the course of development in 949 individuals (521 females and 428 males) aged 8 to 22 years using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). DTI is water-based imaging technique that can trace and highlight the fiber pathways connecting the different regions of the brain, laying the foundation for a structural connectome or network of the whole brain.
This sample of youths was studied as part of the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort, a National Institute of Mental Health-funded collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania Brain Behavior Laboratory and the Center for Applied Genomics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The brain is a roadmap of neural pathways linking many networks that help us process information and react accordingly, with behavior controlled by several of these sub-networks working in conjunction.
In the study, the researchers found that females displayed greater connectivity in the supratentorial region, which contains the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain, between the left and right hemispheres. Males, on the other hand, displayed greater connectivity within each hemisphere.
By contrast, the opposite prevailed in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that plays a major role in motor control, where males displayed greater inter-hemispheric connectivity and females displayed greater intra-hemispheric connectivity.
These connections likely give men an efficient system for coordinated action, where the cerebellum and cortex participate in bridging between perceptual experiences in the back of the brain, and action, in the front of the brain, according to the authors. The female connections likely facilitate integration of the analytic and sequential processing modes of the left hemisphere with the spatial, intuitive information processing modes of the right side.
The authors observed only a few gender differences in the connectivity in children younger than 13 years, but the differences were more pronounced in adolescents aged 14 to 17 years and young adults older than 17.
The findings were also consistent with a Penn behavior study, of which this imaging study was a subset of, that demonstrated pronounced sexual differences. Females outperformed males on attention, word and face memory, and social cognition tests. Males performed better on spatial processing and sensorimotor speed. Those differences were most pronounced in the 12 to 14 age range.
“It’s quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are,” said Dr. Ruben Gur. “Detailed connectome maps of the brain will not only help us better understand the differences between how men and women think, but it will also give us more insight into the roots of neurological disorders, which are often sex related.”
Next steps are to quantify how an individual’s neural connections are different from the population; identify which neural connections are gender specific and common in both; and to see if findings from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies fall in line with the connectome data.
I will try to read a copy of the study itself. I’m skeptical, I have to say, because neural connections have been demonstrated in other studies to be affected by experience/environment. For example, did they control for drug/alcohol use and athleticism versus intellectual activity? Even controlling for taking a second language might change things. Also, it says the age of the subjects only went up to 22 years, so I also wonder about the difference in overall rates of development between girls and boys.
I would rather be an outcast in a rotten patriarchal system, then just give in and live with it.
here is a prime example of why the difference between “then” and “than” really matters
Thanks, my text-to-speech software doesn’t catch everything.
"adventures in grammar"
lol shitstain tumblr user toxicnebulae
Yeah, you hear me yell at the the program to get the correct form of “Their, There, They’re”.
Michio Hoshino, a photographer known for his pictures of bears and other wildlife, was mauled to death by a brown bear on the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Russia. He was in his mid-40′s and lived in Fairbanks, Alaska.
This was the last photo he took.
jesus fucking christ
So this is what death looks like when it comes for you.