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Gray matter

Study finds men have bigger brains, but that women have bigger cortexes — the part associated with intelligence

April 13, 2017

A new study on the physical makeup of the human brain has shown that men and women have differently shaped brains, with women possessing thicker cortices — a feature commonly associated with intelligence — and men having larger brains overall.

Stuart Ritchie, lead author of the study, said that his team looked at the brains of more than 5,200 individuals older than 40, approximately half of whom were women. Through use of MRI machines, researchers found that women’s brains had larger subregions of the cortex — a part of the brain associated with memory, sensory input, learning, and making choices. Women’s brains also tended to look more similar to each other than men’s brains, which on the whole showed greater variety in size and shape.

While general structural differences between men and women’s brains do appear to exist, they remain minor enough to make it impossible to distinguish a person’s gender solely by looking at a brain. Researchers have speculated that these differences in brain structure may account for “gender-specific abilities and/or behavior differences between the sexes,” but Ritchie said that the study was “about describing the differences” as opposed to “the causes.”

With greater understanding of the structure of men’s and women’s brains, he added, treatment of diseases impacting the brain could be improved through development of sex-specific medicines.

Read the full story at Quartz.


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