London: Women are good listeners, while men take more risks.
These may be familiar stereotypes, but they are now also a matter of science.
A team from Cambridge University has found key differences between the brains of men and women.
In women, parts of the brain linked to the emotions, calculating risks, and the ability to listen were more prominent.
In men, on the other hand, the areas of the brain tied to motor skills and co-ordination were denser and larger.
It’s not much of a surprise to hear that women are more ruled by their emotions and men tend to be more active, but researchers said that it could help us to understand psychiatric illnesses that affect one sex more than the other, such as autism, schizophrenia and depression.
They analysed 23 years’ worth of existing research on the brains of people of all ages. Team member Amber Ruigrok said it opened doors for further study.
She explained: “For the first time we can confirm that brain size and structure are different in males and females.
“We should no longer ignore sex in neuroscience research, especially when investigating psychiatric conditions that are more prevalent in either males or females.”
Professor John Suckling, who led the project, said differences in the limbic system, which is important in emotion and memory, could provide clues to treating illness.
He said: “This new study may help us understand not just typical sex differences, but also sex-linked psychiatric conditions.”
But it is too soon to tell how it could affect individuals, he added, saying: “We only investigated sex differences in brain structure, so we cannot infer anything about how this relates to behaviour.’
The study found that in women the left frontal pole, the brain’s emotional control centre, was more dense than in men.
Women also had larger frontal gyri, parts of which are linked to accurately calculating risk.
And Heschl’s gyrus, which is associated with listening, was also of a greater volume in women.
By contrast, men had a larger putamen — an area connected to motor skills. The cerebellum, thought to control co-ordination, was larger in men.
In men, the brain was typically 8 to 12 per cent larger in volume than in women, according to the research published this week in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.
People who become alcoholics may have an overactive pleasure response in their brains, a study suggests. After drinking, they get a bigger dose of reward hormone dopamine, which makes them happy and increases the desire for another glass, the team said.