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Uh-oh: Study shows male and female brains are different, just like Larry Summers said

December 6, 2013

Remember Nancy Hopkins, the MIT biology professor who told reporters, “I felt like I was going to be sick” and said she “almost blacked out” when then-Harvard president Lawrence Summers opined in 2005 that innate male-female differences might help explain why there were relatively few women in math, engineering, and the hard sciences? The outrage reached such funeral-pyre proportions that Summers was obliged to resign from Harvard’s presidency in 2006, even after making as many abject apologies as a prisoner in a Soviet reeducation gulag.

Well guess what? A recently published study from the University of Pennsylvania shows that male and female brains are wired so differently that you might think they belonged to different species:

Scientists have drawn on nearly 1,000 brain scans to confirm what many had surely concluded long ago: that stark differences exist in the wiring of male and female brains.

Maps of neural circuitry showed that on average women’s brains were highly connected across the left and right hemispheres, in contrast to men’s brains, where the connections were typically stronger between the front and back regions.

Ragini Verma, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said the greatest surprise was how much the findings supported old stereotypes, with men’s brains apparently wired more for perception and co-ordinated actions, and women’s for social skills and memory, making them better equipped for multitasking.

“If you look at functional studies, the left of the brain is more for logical thinking, the right of the brain is for more intuitive thinking. So if there’s a task that involves doing both of those things, it would seem that women are hardwired to do those better,” Verma said. “Women are better at intuitive thinking. Women are better at remembering things. When you talk, women are more emotionally involved – they will listen more.”

She added: “I was surprised that it matched a lot of the stereotypes that we think we have in our heads. If I wanted to go to a chef or a hairstylist, they are mainly men.”

***

“It’s quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are,” Ruben Gur, a co-author on the study, said in a statement. “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.”

Expect even more Hopkins-style cases of the feminist vapors when this gets around.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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