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Health: Contrasting Brain Wiring In Men And Women May Explain Gender Differences

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, men have more neural connectivity from the front of, to the back of their brains and within one side of the brain. Their brains are also more adapted toward tasks involving perception and coordinated actions.

Women, on the other hand, have more wiring between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, making them better communicators, better analyzers and they have better intuition.

In a press release researcher Ragini Verma, an associate professor in the department of Radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said, "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."

Men have been shown in previous studies to be better at learning and completing a single task at a time, while women have shown to better at memory and social cognition activities, making them better group problem solvers.

According to the authors of the study, it is the first to show differences in neural wiring.

The study tracked 949 individuals, 521 females and 428 males, ranging in age from eight to 22 years old. Using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) -- a method that uses water-based imagery to see the fibers that connect different areas of the brain -- the researchers were able to see differences in brain development.

Men had more connections with the part of the brain that's thought to be responsible for motor control. Women, on the other hand, had more connections with the part of the brain involved in functions such as cognition and sensation.

While there were some differences in those under age 13, the brain changes were more obvious in adolescents between 14 and 17 years old and adults older than 17.

The brain scans were part of a larger Penn behavior study.

In other parts of the Penn research, it showed that men did better at spatial processing and sensorimotor speed, while women did better on attention, word and face memory and social cognition tests.

"(The study) confirms our intuition that men are predisposed for rapid action, and women are predisposed to think about how things feel," said Paul Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California, to HealthDay.

"It's quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are," study co-author Dr. Ruben Gur, a professor of psychology and the director of the Brain Behavior Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, said.

"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."

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