The differences between the sexes are also reflected in the degree of activation of the brain.
The psychological and neurological differences between men and women are one of the most interesting fields of study in the world of science applied to the study of the human being. Ultimately, the division between the sexes has a clear impact on many aspects of our lives, no matter what culture we belong to, all over the planet.
For example, research exploring the differences in cognitive performance between men and women aims to give us an approximation to the type of mental capacities and psychological aptitudes. Normally, this is done by differentiating between categories of cognitive abilities and seeing which ones women excel at and which ones men tend to perform better.
However, there are other indirect ways of knowing what are the aspects of our mental life in which there is a division between the sexes. For example, you can see to what extent people’s brains are usually activated. And this is precisely what has been done through recent research, the results of which have been published in the scientific journal Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The bottom line is that, in general, a woman’s brain is about 10% more active than a man’s.
Women’s brains are more active
This research promoted by the scientists of the Amen Clinics of California was carried out from more than 20,000 images in which the functional activation of the brains of patients is recorded.
These brain “scans” are performed by measuring which areas of this set of organs receive the greatest amount of blood supply. It is based on the idea that the more blood reaches an area, the more “activated” it will be, since irrigation comes to support the energy needs of areas that need a greater amount of resources as they are very busy.
Thus, based on the coloration and luminosity that each of the brain areas received, the researchers had the opportunity to see how in women’s brains it was more common to have larger brain extensions “illuminated” than in men (at least in proportion).
From the data analysis, it was found that the women’s brains were larger both in the resting state (12% difference) and while performing a complex task (in this case, the difference was 8%).
Are women smarter?
It is very easy and intuitive to relate the activation of the brains with the degree of intelligence. However, they are two different things.
What defines intelligence itself is the ability to improvise solutions in changing situations. In other words, if we are good at adapting to rapidly changing contexts, we will be intelligent regardless of what happens in our brain: what matters is the practice of our actions applied to real environments, not neuroimaging.
However, it is also true that our actions are not disconnected from what happens in our brain, far from it (without a brain, there would be no behavior). And in addition, virtually any variation in behavior patterns is reflected in differences in activation patterns. That is why the fact that the brain of women tends to be somewhat more activated than that of men is much more than a simple curiosity, and may have implications in the world of psychology and neurology.
For example, there is data that shows how intelligence is linked more to low brain activation than to an excess of it. It makes sense, since smarter people put less effort into performing complex mental operations. So to speak, they manage their neural resources better.
But that doesn’t mean that women are less intelligent than men. After all, IQ score records reveal that there are hardly any differences between the two sexes, and that in any case the mean intelligence of women is somewhat higher than that of men, while the number of gifted people is higher in men, and the same occurs with extremely low scores (in this sex there is a greater dispersion of results).
Are they really differences between the sexes?
The existence of these differences in the intensity of brain activation does not mean that in any situation and context, the female brain always maintains this difference with respect to that of the male. As much as there are several differences between men and women that are almost entirely due to genes, others are the result of culture, the way society shapes our nervous systems.
What happens is that, so far, it is not clear how much of the observable differences between men and women are due to genetics and which are due to culture. More research will be needed to find out if it is all due to the different lifestyle between the sexes. We often forget that even across cultures, the roles assigned to women and men can make their nervous systems adapt in different ways.