The Gendered Brain: A Murky Debate

As time passes, we continue to push this gap under the shadows without a second thought.

People have searched for sex differences in human brains since at least the 19th century. In the early 19th century, American physician Samuel George Morton collected skulls to compare brain size and “measure intelligence” among certain populations. Beyond the inaccuracy of his study, the results were biased, as they deemed intellectual superiority amongst Caucasian groups.

This might be the only difference that researchers agree on.

For every study that claims that the male and female brains largely differ structurally, there is another claiming that both are “more alike than we might think.”

In her book, Gender and Our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds, Gina Rippon argues that there’s no such thing as the “male” or “female” brain.

Starting the Search

According to Rippon, this hunt started about 200 years ago as scientists began to observe the role of the brain in cognition and ability. Looking into society, researchers found women to be intellectually “inferior,” with significantly smaller educational achievements.

An Unintentional Manipulation

Through brain research, we have access to immensely complicated data. But when carrying out studies, researchers say that we tend to highlight differences that are found — creating an inaccurate representation of what is actually going on within the brain.

Explaining Accepted Differences

There are certain mental tasks in information processing, such as spatial skills, map reading, or constructing and manipulating 3D objects, where men consistently outperform women.

Crossing The Bridge

In 2017, the January/February edition of the Journal of Neuroscience Research was the first issue of any neuroscience journal to be devoted entirely to the influence of sex differences on nervous system function.

Neuroscientifically Challenged — 2-Minute Neuroscience: Limbic System

New technologies have generated growing evidence of inherent differences in neuronal wiring between genders.

Contrary to the argument of researchers who believe in neurosexism, these researchers have observed that many of these cognitive differences appear quite early in life. In her text, Halpern notes that sex differences in spatial-visualization ability in two-month-old and three-month-old infants are notable.

Seeking A Deeper Perspective

Do more recent studies prove Rippon’s argument otherwise? In fact, are both sides even seeking to explain the same thing?

But the brain is immensely more complicated than that.

Even Rippon acknowledges the role of hormones in cognition and behavior.

However, our biochemistry proves to be more powerful than one might expect.

As Diane Halpern, an esteemed psychologist wrote in the first edition of one of her most acclaimed academic texts, Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities,

YouTube — Sarah LoBisco, ND, IFMCP

Could It Be Our Biochemistry?

Throughout their lifetimes, males and females have different chemicals driving their engines — namely, sex hormones and hormone levels.

All scientists acknowledge that the presence or absence of a single DNA base pair can change a life.

If a single base pair can significantly alter the life of an individual, it’s hard to imagine what a completely different chromosome could do, beyond external differences. The 1,500 genes on the X chromosome and the 27 genes on the Y only have some matching counterparts to the other respective chromosome. Essentially, this means that every cell in a female or male body each has a slightly different set of functioning genes from the sex-chromosomes that operate on a routinely basis, differing from the opposing gender.

The inexplicable symphony of biological processes, deeper than our structural observations, must affect at least some of our circuitry.



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Manasi Gajjalapurna

Manasi Gajjalapurna

AI, women’s health, and education | a collection of my thoughts |