A study completed recently in December 2013 on nearly 1,000 brain scans has surprisingly confirmed what many of us thought…that there are major differences between the male & female brain. Women’s and men’s brains are indeed wired in fundamentally different ways.
The research showed that on average, female brains are highly connected across the left and right hemispheres, and connections in male brains are typically stronger between the front and back regions. Men’s brains tend to perform tasks predominantly on the left-side, which is the logical/rational side of the brain. Women, on the other hand, use both sides of their brains because a woman’s brain has a larger Corpus Callosum, which means women can transfer data between the right and left hemispheres faster than men.
Here is a list of the basic differences between women & men based on research studies of the brain done up to now. This might be a handy list to show to your other half to avoid future misunderstandings!
Brain Size & Brain Connections: Women’s brains are 8% smaller than men’s, but have more interconnections. Women perform better at “bigger picture” & situational thinking while men do better on more specific spatial thinking (problem solving, and pattern prediction involving objects and their spatial relationships).
Multi-tasking: Men tend to be better at learning and performing a single task, like cycling or navigating, and women are better at juggling different tasks at once.
Social Context: Women are better at social thinking & interactions than men, while men are more abstract and task-orientated. This is why women are normally better at communication while men more often prefer relying on themselves to get things done.
Emotions: Women typically have a larger limbic system than men, which makes them more in touch and expressive with their emotions. Women are usually more empathic and comprehensive in thinking, while men focus on exact issues and disregard impertinent information. Men have a difficult time understanding emotions not explicitly verbalized but can think more logically, while women have a more wholesome view of thinking & understanding but their emotions can sometimes cloud judgements.
Math Skills: A brain area called the “Inferior-Parietal Lobule (IPL)” is normally larger in men than women. This area is thought to control mathematical processes, which explains why men typically can perform mathematical tasks better than women.
Pain: Women tend to perceive pain more intensely than men. The Amygdala is the brain area activated when pain is felt. The right Amygdala is activated for men and the left Amygdala is activated for women. The right Amygdala has more connections with external functions while the left Amygdala has more connections with internal functions.
Coordination & Movement: Men are generally better with coordination, controlling their movements, and have faster reaction times.
Language: Women are more attuned to words and sounds and are normally better at learning languages. This is also why men tend to have a harder time expressing emotions verbally.
Memory: Women generally have better memory than men. They have greater activity in the brain’s hippocampus, which is part of the brain that helps store memories. Studies have shown women are generally better at recalling words, names, faces, pictures, objects, and everyday events.
Sense of Direction: Men has shown to have better visual-spatial & geographic memory and thinking, meaning they tend to have a better sense of direction and remembering where locations and areas are.
Risks & Rewards: Men has a brain wired for risk-taking more than women. Male brains get a bigger burst of endorphins, sensation of pleasure, when faced with a risky or challenging situation. And the bigger the reward is, the more likely a man will take a risk.
Senses & Sex: Men focus more on their visual sense, among other senses of perception; while women tend to use multiple senses. In terms of sexual activity, men are prevalently turned on by what they see, whereas women are turned on by multiple sources: ambience, touch, scent, as well as visual perception.
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Let me begin this blog with “I do not know” whether cell phone used causes brain cancer in the form of tumors or not. However, not knowing something means you do not know and hence caution is most likely in order, particularly when cancer is the point of discussion.
Let me try to ease the confusion and suggest some lifestyle steps to avoid unnecessary risk if it is present. A primary malignant brain tumor is one in which the cancer originates in the brain itself rather than traveling to the brain from another region of the body (metastases). There are over 20,000 new cases of primary brain malignancies each year. A specific form of brain tumor known as the glioblastoma multiforme has increased 30 to 70 percent from one decade to the next in some metropolitan areas of the United States. It is believed that ten times the number of metastatic brain tumors will also occur in the same time period.
Risks for cancer include pesticides, air pollution, chemicals found in meats, power lines, and plastics. Xrays are also on the list of risk factors including the microwave type radiation emitted from cell phones. This is why cell phone companies suggest we hold the phones away from out ear when using it. Further, there have been several studies indicating a relationship (not cause and effect) between cell phone use and risk of brain cancer, increased risk of acoustic neuroma, and glioblastomas. It is important to note that other studies that have not found any relationship between cell phone use and increased risk for brain cancer. We will most likely learn more about this relationship as we have more time to study the use and effects of cell phone use on a larger number of people over a greater period of time.
As cell phone use is a lifestyle issue, what can be done at this point? There certainly has been an increase in the number of users and the amount of time each user spends on their cell phone. Some homes do not even have land lines anymore. Children are using cell phones at unprecedented rates as well. Dr. Black, renowned neurosurgeon suggests that parents try to curtail cell phone usage in their children. Even adults are encouraged to use an earpiece (not a blue tooth) to avoid direct contact between the phone and the ear.
Sleep is actually a very important function of and for the brain. We need to generate enough sleep to feel rested, to have energy, to assist with mood, and to even help us think more clearly.
Sleep is divided into four stages. Deep sleep or stage IV sleep is critical to brain function. With advanced age we generate less deep IV sleep and it is probably not a coincidence that our cognitive abilities change as well.
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is the part of sleep when we dream and we are actually paralyzed. REM occupies about 25% of our sleep and is critical for encoding information to a deeper level. Our brain processes millions of bits of information daily and during REM it is thought the brain selects those bits of information that are most critical.
Debate on how much sleep is necessary continues, but it is probably safe to say that young children need at least 8 hours of sleep a day while adults should get more than 6. Certainly, these numbers are not fixed and there are cases where some do fine with only a few hours while others do not. The bottom line is that our brains need sleep, deep sleep, and REM to function efficiently.
Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that includes a wide array of symptoms. We do not know the cause of autism and we have no cure. Much has been learned and autism is certainly no longer viewed as a single disorder or entity. The emotional strain on a family can be substantial, particularly when resistance to an emotional or loving attachment occurs.
I have been reading more about the positive effects of surfing on some children with autism. As I am not an expert in this area I want to be careful and inform the public that autism is not my area of specialization. However, I have now read several accounts of how a child suffering from autism has a type of “awakening” after some time in the water learning how to surf.
Obviously, the surfing I am describing involves one to one work with a trained surfer who has a gift of working with children suffering autism. It is also true that by these accounts that the first part of the experience can be difficult as the child experiences a natural fear of the ocean and strangers. It might be most difficult for the parents who are watching with great doubt.
The reports indicate that after a short period of time the child with autism not only relaxes, but begins to awaken to life and the surroundings in a way not seen prior to the surfing experience. It is not known why or how this occurs, but perhaps the child’s brain is literally overwhelmed with stimulation which helps to soothe and foster interaction with others in the immediate environment. One parent even described his child as being able to speak and connect in ways he thought was impossible.
Perhaps Mother Nature provides us with some treatments in her own way. The majesty of an ocean whose water fills 80% of our planet might have some answers for the brain. Maybe it is the movement, the energy, the sound, the rhythm. Even if we do not fully understand why, the fact that we have anecdotal evidence for surfing bringing some children with Autism to a new awakening is reason enough to ask more questions.
For many years neurons have been considered the main act within the cerebral cortex, responsible for our thoughts, emotions, and movements. Of interest is the fact that neurons only account for about 10% of human brain cells. Glial cells that account for the other 90% of brain cells have typically been thought to carry a supportive role to the neurons.
An article in Forbes Magazine (July 13, 2009), however, suggests glial cells may be even more important than neurons for treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke. Recent understanding of the brain now indicates glial cells with neurons play a critical role in brain development and brain function.
Medications on the market today do not work on glial cells. Ben Barnes, Chairman of the Neurobiology Department at Stanford University Medical School posits that one type of glial cells, the astrocytes, trigger the initial steps of destruction in brain diseases. As such, Dr. Barnes believes that by creating treatments that of the astrocytes can in turn save dying neurons.
If glial cells do indeed maintain a more critical role in the formation, function, and elimination of synaptic activity, plasticity, and creation of myelin sheath around the neuron, an entirely new approach to behavioral neuroscience will be born and with it, an entirely new treatment approach.
The human brain has what is known as a dominant side and a non-dominant side. Dominance is determined by where language is processed and for the vast majority of humans we believe the dominant side is the left side or left hemisphere. Interestingly, we are not sure why the left side evolved to be dominant, but perhaps it had something to do with cave men and women using their right hands more often.
As language is processed primarily by most in the left hemisphere it is important to note that words are best processed when spoken into the right ear. The right ear processes information primarily using the left hemisphere while the left ear uses the right hemisphere.
A recent study found that words were more deeply processed when spoken into the person’s right ear. Therefore, if you want me to remember something for you please speak to me on my right side.