The Athlete's Way

Sweat and the biology of bliss

Brain Connectivity Varies Between Men and Women

Researchers at University of Pennsylvania have discovered fundamental differences between the neural wiring of the male and female brain. Read More

Every audience/demographic gets a different story.

For the moron geezer boomers, CBS Morning News' Norma whats-her-face and her evil twin-of-Oprah sidekick had a lesbian love moment over how "women use both sides of their brains, while men only use one side of theirs" -- basically the pop-feminist propaganda of 20-25 yrs ago.

An alternative view.

Anne Greer--Thank you for joining the discussion and for sharing this 'alternative view' with myself and other readers. Very interesting food for thought. Thanks again, Christopher Bergland

Interesting study, but it's conclusion is nonsense

Ragini Verma said "These maps show us a stark difference--and complementarity--in the architecture of the human brain that helps provide a potential neural basis as to why men excel at certain tasks, and women at others,”

Indeed, the difference in architecture is so stark that one would reasonably expect males and females to be totally different. But this is not what we find occurring: the difference between the genders is much smaller than the differences found within each gender.

My conclusion to the study: A stark difference in brain architecture has a surprisingly insignificant effect on brain function compared to the highly significant functional difference found between individuals with similar architecture.

I was amused by "men excel at certain tasks, and women at others," ... "Males performed better on spatial processing and sensorimotor speed." -- there are some damned good female navigators and pilots. My point being that excelling at certain tasks is, by definition, a rare ability that does not correlate with the brain maps in the study neither does it correlate with gender.

The study itself is fascinating, but its conclusions and the media hype are sensationalism: pop-neuroscience rather than science.

Increasing the size of a study does indeed increase its statistical significance, but does not necessarily increase its practical significance, and it does not add weight to induced conclusions (unless one is selling news stories).

Interesting study, but it's conclusion is nonsense.

Thank you for joining the discussion and for your insightful comment anonymous.

I also found this study very interesting but had some questions about the sweeping generalizations made by the researchers based on gender.

In writing this blog post, I tried to be as objective about the researcher's findings and conclusions as possible ... Experts seem to have a wide range of opinions on the link between gender and brain connectivity. I was hoping for comments and other opinions from readers like yourself. Thank you again for sharing your viewpoint and insightful conclusions on this study.

For me, the most promising aspect of the Penn research was summed up in the conclusion made by Dr. Ruben Gur who said these findings "will also give us more insight into the roots of neurological disorders, which are often sex related."

Another reader shared an article by 'neuroskeptic' that questioned the DTI method of imaging used in the study itself... This is all interesting food for thought and I really appreciate you taking the time to share your ideas about this study with myself and other readers.

Christopher Bergland

Thanks very much for your reply

Thanks very much for your reply, Christopher. I always enjoy reading your articles because I find them both highly informative and very well balanced (you have the rare ability to cut through the hype and present the essence).

I noticed (but regrettably failed to comment on) the important conclusion made by Dr. Ruben Gur: "[these findings] will also give us more insight into the roots of neurological disorders, which are often sex related." -- this would be a wonderful eventual outcome from the study.

About DTI... All MRI techniques have their limitations. MRI machines are highly complex and very useful tools, but, as so often happens with modern complex computerized tools, any fool can now use them and obtain totally meaningless results that have strong statistical validity. I'm thinking of the fun trial with a dead salmon and a fMRI machine:

The Neuroskeptic article was justified in questioning the validity of the study, not for the reasons given, but simply because it is the first study of its kind. The study will only gain credence when it has been independently verified.

Thanks again for sharing these insights!

Wow. This is awesome! Thank you again for advancing this discussion and sharing these insights. The dead salmon in the fMRI was brilliant. :-)

Also, thanks for shedding more light on the Neuroskeptics take on the new Penn study and DTI...You seem extremely knowledgeable on this topic and it's wonderful to have your feedback posted in these comments.

As I've mentioned before, my dad was a neuroscientist and neurosurgeon who became frustrated with the limitations of brain imaging technology in his research... Obviously, these technologies still have a long way to go. That said, I find all the new research and methods for studying connectomes really fascinating...

btw--I'm really glad you enjoy reading my blogs posts! Thank you for the kind words. I try very hard to keep my posts accessible and balanced while still pushing the envelope a bit. Like my dad, I am always looking for practical ways to apply the latest neuroscience to improving people's lives here and now.

Constructive comments like yours make a big difference in keeping the findings of these studies more balanced and on target. So again, I appreciate you taking the time to share your insights with myself and other readers. Have a great day! Christopher Bergland

PS--My sister is a pilot for FedEx and flies MD-11s around the globe. I couldn't agree with you more about the potential backlash of making sweeping generalizations about being a 'good navigator' based solely on gender and not an individual's unique brain architecture etc.

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Christopher Bergland is a world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, and political activist.


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