Tag Archives: brain

Stereotypes prevail: women and men are not equal!

First of all: I’m not saying women are less than men… or the other way around. Certainly not on International Womens Day. ūüėČ Yet as millions of people have noticed, men and women seem to be wired differently.¬†Well guess what? A recent study has shown just that!

Comparing men’s and women’s connectomes

The researchers mapped the neural connections in almost a 1,000 persons between 8 and 22 years old. This produced the connectomes (map of neural connections in the brain) showed below.

Connectome of male brain. Credit: National Academy of Sciences
Connectome of the male brain.
Credit: National Academy of Sciences

The male brain shows many connections between areas of the same hemisphere and very few between the left and right hemisphere. In contrast the cerebellum, a brain region involved with motor control, showed increased connectivity between both hemispheres.

Connectome of female brain. Credit: National Academy of Sciences
Connectome of the female brain.
Credit: National Academy of Sciences

Women, on the other hand, have a lot of neural connections between the left and right hemisphere. However, in the cerebellum women have less connections between both sides of the brain.

These findings agree with what most people seem to know. Men are ¬†better at perception and learning individual coordinated¬†¬†tasks, women at multitasking due to their brain being wired for social skills and memory. The left side of the brain mostly involved with logical thinking, while the right side “specializes” in intuitive thinking. A lot of connections between both sides ¬†naturally leads to better performance in tasks that need both of these elements.

Due to the young age of the subjects, brain development during adolescence could also be studied. This revealed that the differentiation between men and women already starts at a young age. It also revealed large differences between the adolescence and adulthood brain.

 What can we learn from this?

This research is about more than only explaining behavioural differences. These brain images can learn us more about sex-related neurological disorders.  Which could lead to a better understanding in how these disorders develop and how they can be cured.

The paper can be found here: Sex differences in the structural connectome of the human brain

What defines you?

Who or what are you really?

What defines you as a person? Can we really perceive reality for what it really is or do we only sense its rough outlines? These questions are beautifully embedded in the following comic:

XKCD comic - Trapped
911? My brain is hatching an escape plan, please stop it!

This comic raises some interesting questions. The first question makes us reflect on who we really ¬†are and what defines us. Our brain is trapped in a continuously changing “cage”. In essence, one could say we’re nothing more than a bunch of¬†cooperating cells. However most of these cells get damaged, die and are regenerated.

Shocked? Probably not, yet losing a limb or even a finger is a very traumatic experience. A lesson can be learned here: our brain doesn’t seem to cope well with mass-murdering, but tolerates occasional fatalities. But more importantly, this shows that we think of ourselves as more than just a bunch of neurons and the ideas trapped inside of them.

Indeed, our brain needs the rest of our body to move about, get sensory input, nutrients and oxygen. That’s were the third panel comes in. The girl suggest that the brain shouldn’t feel trapped, but use the surrounding tissue to move about and make sense of the world its living in.

The last panel is of course a nod to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”. The main protagonist rightfully remarks that its senses only show an imprint of reality, one that is far less complex than the true underlying processes. We only sense the “shadows” of reality.

Plato would certainly approve. I bet he would have loved the opportunity to see what’s going on inside our brain.