In brains, size doesn't matter
Tuesday 18 May 1999
Scientists have discovered that women's brains are richer in grey matter than the brains of men, whose heads are more densely packed with less efficient white matter.
The findings shed new light on the long-established sex differences in intellectual abilities, with women performing better at verbal skills, including gossiping, and men being better at spatial relation tasks, such as playing darts.
The study investigated 40 men and 40 women using powerful brain scanners, which can analyse brain function in different areas of the head. This led to the discovery of differences between white and grey content. The grey matter is composed of the central part of brain cells and is involved with information processing, making women formidable intellectual partners.
Although men may have just as much grey matter as women, their slightly larger brains contain a higher proportion of the finger-like extensions of brain cells, which make up the white matter.
The results may also explain why men and women perform equally well in IQ tests even though men tend to have bigger heads and brains.
The discovery was made by the husband-and-wife team of Ruben and Raquel Gur. Mr Gur said he and his wife agree on the interpretation of their findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience. "We ironed out any disputes at home before going to press," he said.
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