The structure of men's and women's brains has, in the past, been thought to be basically the same, with differences in emotional responses explained by the actions of sex hormones and social pressures. Yet research published in New Scientist magazine now suggests that the brains of men and women show marked anatomical and chemical differences, and appear to be constructed from somewhat different genetic blueprints. Scientists now believe that there are two distinct types of human brain, both of which have been developed for equally intelligent behaviour.
This new research may explain some of the assumptions about differences between men and women, such as the belief that men are more concerned with sex than their female counterparts. Research has in fact discovered that the area of the brain which controls emotions and social and sexual behaviour — the amygdala region — is larger in men.
Meanwhile, other myths, such as women having poor spatial awareness and map reading skills, have been debunked by this research, which has shown that the hippocampus, which is involved in short-term memory and spatial navigation, is proportionally larger in women than in men.
The frontal lobe, which is responsible for decision-making and problem-solving, is also proportionally larger in women than men. Also the area which regulates emotions was larger in women, reinforcing the stereotype that women are more emotional beings than men.
Importantly, this new research holds great potential in gaining an insight into different treatments for men and women in terms of pain relief and also why mental illness affects the sexes differently. This could lead to new painkillers being designed specifically for men and women for greater efficacy. It may also give scientists more leads into how to treat depression — which occurs far more widely in women than men — and other conditions such as autism and Tourette's syndrome.
It’s all thought-provoking stuff, but if you’re raising small fry, at this stage of their life, you’re probably more focused on how they’re doing individually, rather than whether your daughter’s brain is functioning differently to your son’s!
However, you can help both genders along in the brain-power stakes by encouraging them to extend their learning at home – and have fun at the same time, of course! Tools like our homework planner, flash cards and multiplication tables templates are all useful in this process.
Also give your children the opportunity to express themselves beyond activities specifically targeted for girls or boys by filling out their very own original activity list. There’s a template for boys and a template for girls, but their choices are absolutely their own and aren’t limited to bike riding for boys and playing with dolls for girls!