A new study answers the age-old question of whether males and females have different types of brains.

By Hollee Actman Becker

Women may be from Venus and men from Mars, but their brains, it turns out, aren't really all that different.

According to a new study, the human brain can't neatly be categorized as either "male" or "female." Instead, researchers found that it's actually made up of a mix of masculine and feminine characteristics.

"This is the first study to look at the brain as a whole and ask whether brains are of two types. The answer is no," said lead author Daphna Joel. "Each person possesses a unique mosaic of characteristics: some more common in females compared to males, some more common in males compared to females, and some common in both."

The researchers analyzed more than 1,400 MRI brain scans and found that the brains of males and females did not differ in terms of gray matter, white matter, and connections inside the brain. Instead, the findings showed only a very small number—between 0 and 8 percent—of people had all-male or all-female brains. "Most people are in the middle," Joel said.

"We are beginning to realize the complexity of what we have traditionally understood to be 'male' and 'female', and this study is the first step in that direction," said Bruce MdEwan, who edited the study manuscript. "I think it will change peoples' minds."


According to Joel, the results turn the entire concept of boy/girl brains on its head. "Who has a boy brain? The few boys who are consistently at the male end?" she said. "And if these boys have a 'boy brain' then what type of brain do the other boys have?"

Joel goes on to say that people shouldn't be treated differently based on their sex, and that any argument "that builds on the assumption that girls' brains are like this and boys' brains are like that is in trouble. It's wrong, not just politically, but scientifically," she said. "Everyone is different."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.



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