Men and women do think differently, at least where the anatomy of the brain is concerned, according to a new study.
The brain is made primarily of two different types of tissue, called gray matter and white matter. This new research reveals that men think more with their gray matter, and women think more with white. Researchers stressed that just because the two sexes think differently, this does not affect intellectual performance.
Psychology professor Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine led the research along with colleagues from the University of New Mexico. Their findings show that in general, men have nearly 6.5 times the amount of gray matter related to general intelligence compared with women, whereas women have nearly 10 times the amount of white matter related to intelligence compared to men.
"These findings suggest that human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior," said Haier, adding that, "by pinpointing these gender-based intelligence areas, the study has the potential to aid research on dementia and other cognitive-impairment diseases in the brain."
The results are detailed in the online version of the journal NeuroImage.
In human brains, gray matter represents information processing centers, whereas white matter works to network these processing centers.
The results from this study may help explain why men and women excel at different types of tasks, said co-author and neuropsychologist Rex Jung of the University of New Mexico. For example, men tend to do better with tasks requiring more localized processing, such as mathematics, Jung said, while women are better at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions of the brain, which aids language skills.
Scientists find it very interesting that while men and women use two very different activity centers and neurological pathways, men and women perform equally well on broad measures of cognitive ability, such as intelligence tests.
This research also gives insight to why different types of head injuries are more disastrous to one sex or the other. For example, in women 84 percent of gray matter regions and 86 percent of white matter regions involved in intellectual performance were located in the frontal lobes, whereas the percentages of these regions in a man's frontal lobes are 45 percent and zero, respectively. This matches up well with clinical data that shows frontal lobe damage in women to be much more destructive than the same type of damage in men.
Both Haier and Jung hope that this research will someday help doctors diagnose brain disorders in men and women earlier, as well as provide help designing more effective and precise treatments for brain damage.