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BRAIN SEX

Diane Pritchatt diane at bnclib.demon.co.uk
Fri Sep 5 10:41:40 EST 1997


In article <01bcb7e9$fbf79120$9dab41ce at default>, Scott
<sfelder at nortexinfo.net> writes
>The following is a quote from the book "Brain Sex; The Real Differences
>Between Men and Women" by Anne Moir phd. and David Jessel. Its copyright is
>1989.
>The book is written to the general population. I was wondering what you
>(the professionals) thought about this book, if you read it. I was also
>wondering if you knew of any books on this subject that are both more up to
>date and written to the general population. If what this book has to say
>(and I believe it's as closer to the truth then anything else I've read)
>factual, why isn't the general population more aware of these differences
>in the male and female brain. Why do the vast majority of people still
>believe that these differences are socialize?
>
>I saw a discussion on PBS television the other day. They were discussing
>why girls don't do as well as boys in math. 

I used to work in an educational programme here in the UK, directly
linked to the Department of Education and Science.  We looked at this
question as part of the programme, whose overall aim was to introduce
microelectronics, where appropriate, as part of the whole curriculum.

We realised the fact that, at a junior level, girls quite often did
better than boys at maths, and statistical studies backed this up.
However, the trend we found was, that once in secondary school (US high
school), girls began to change and do worse at maths.

The inference we drew here was, that girls had at least as good an
innate ability  to do well at maths.  However, once the teenage years
set in, it becomes increasingly important for children to fulfill their
'roles' as girls or boys.  So, being considered a 'male preserve',
science and mathematics soon become pretty 'uncool' to be good at for
girls.  Girls still steer away from choosing scientific subjects, or
choosing science careers.  By a similar token, very few boys do home
economics, or go on into nursing, for instance (although statistics are
improving gradually). 

I really believe that it is what our wider society teaches as tacit
messages about male and female roles and abilities which is imbibed and
assimilated by kids at key developmental stages, that puts them off
going into subjects and professions that are considered to be for the
opposite sex.

Parents can influence their kids a great deal.  My own mum always told
me 'I was like her'.  'She was useless at maths'.  In fact, I ended up
working in accountancy for a while, and now work in a medical field, so
I challenge that conspiracy, to put me in the same mould!  However, as a
teenager, I really DID become hopeless at maths, and lose all my self
confidence to be able to do it.  It came down to confidence and the
right teaching environment.  I actually told my mum the other day that
'I will not have it that I am no good at maths!'  because as an adult I
have been able to realise I CAN learn it if I want to!  

I would love other girls to be told this, too, and for them to be able
to grasp that maths is just another part of life, not something for
boys, or shrouded in mystery.
>In their minds, the reason
>girls do less well  was because our patriarchal society is reflected in
our
>school system and passively telling girls that they can't do as well as
>boys; so girls don't. 

(Quite).

 I wanted to ask them if this is true (that our
>patriarchal schools favor boys over girls) why do boys far out number
girls
>in remedial reading.
>Thank you 
>Scott
>
>Chapter 3 pages 44-49
>"How the difference in the brain structure relates to the differences found
>in behaviour and ability between the sexes is an area of intense debate
>among scientists. After talking to the the world's principal specialist, we
>have arrive at this picture of their current working hypothesis.
>       What makes us better at one thing or another seems to be the degree
>to which a particular area of the brain is specifically devoted to a
>particular activity - whether it is focused or difussed. Men and women are
>better at the skills that are controlled by specific areas of the brain -
>but different areas of their brains are focused for different things.This
>means that the male and female pattern of brain organisation has advantages
>and disadvantages for both sexes. The male pattern, with more brain
>functions specifically organised,  means that men are not so easily
>distracted by superfluous information....
>     A leading Canadian brain sex researcher, Sandra Witleson, suggest that
>this difference may make it easier for men to perform two different
>activities at once. She suggests, for example, that talking and map reading
>can both be done at the same time much more easily by a man than a woman.
>In a man each activity is controlled by different sides of the brain. In a
>woman the same activities are controlled by areas on both sides of the
>brain. The two activities can interfere with each other and she will not be
>as good at talking and map reading at the same time.
>     The differences in brain organisation, according to many research
>workers, also provides an explanation for male superiority in spatial
>ability. A woman's spatial skills are controlled by both sides of the
>brain. There is an overlap with areas of the brain that control other
>activities. The female is trying to do two things at once with the same
>area of the brain and spatial abilities suffer. In a man the spatial
>abilities are controlled by a more specific area of the brain, so there is
>much less chance that other activities will interfere.
>     There is a further difference in that women often apply verbal methods
>to solve abstract maths problems. This approach will not be as effective as
>the male who is using the right, visual side of the brain to solve that
>type of problem. It is far quicker and easier to solve such problems with
>the right-side brain skills than with the verbal left-side brain skills.
>     The superiority of women in verbal tests can also be explained by the
>difference in brain organisation. The language skills related to grammar,
>spelling and writing are all more specifically located in the left-hand
>side of the brain in a woman. In a man they are spread in the front and
>back of the brain, and so he will have to work harder than a woman to
>achieve these skills.
>
>So far we have mostly discussed language and spatial  skills; but the brain
>is more than a mere calculating machine. It determines our emotions, and
>our capacity to respond to them and express them. Sandra Witleson has
>studied how people respond to emotional information fed to the right
>hemisphere and then the left hemisphere. She made use of the fact that
>visual images restricted to the right-hand field of view are transmitted to
>the left side of the brain, and those restricted to the left-hand field are
>transmitted to the right side of the brain.
>     The visual images she used were emotionally charged. She found women
>recognized the emotional content whichever side of the brain the image was
>transmitted to. Men only recognised the emotional content when the image
>was transmitted to the right-hand side of the brain.
>     Women have their emotional responses residing in both left and right
>sides of the brain. In men the emotional functions are concentrated in the
>right side of the brain. 
>     The importance of the differences in brain organisation for emotion
>becomes clearer in the light of the latest discovery of sex differences in
>the brain.
>     The difference relates to the corpus callosum, the bundle of fibres
>that link the left and right sides of the brain. These nerve fibres allow
>for the exchange of information between the two halves of the brain. In
>women the corpus callosum is different from in the male brain.
>     In blind tests on fourteen brains obtained after autopsy, the
>scientists found that in women an important area of the corpus callosum was
>thicker and more bulbous than in men. Overall, this key message-exchange
>centre was bigger, in relation to overall brain weight, in women than in
>men. The difference could be precisely discerned.
>     The two sides of the brain, connected by the corpus callosum, have a
>larger number of connections in women. This means that more information is
>being exchanged between the left and right sides of the female brain.
>     And the latest research has shown that the more connections people
>have between the left and right hemispheres, the more articulate and fluent
>they are. This finding provides a further explanation for women's verbval
>dexterity. But could the corpus callosum provide the answer to another
>mystery; could it provide a somewhat prosaic solution to the secret of
>female intuition? Is the physical capacity of a woman to connect and relate
>more piecces of information than a man explained not by witchcraft, after
>all, but merely by superior switchgear? Since women are in general better
>at recognising the emotional nuances in voice, gesture, and facial
>expression, a whole rand of sensory information. They can deduce more from
>such information because they have a greater capacity than men to integrate
>and cross-relate verbal and visual information.
>
>Some scientists suggest that the difference in emotional response in men
>and women can be explained by the difference in the structure and
>organisation of the brain.
>     Man keeps his emotions in their place; and that place is on the right
>side of his brain, while the power to express his feelings in speech lies
>over on the other side. Because the two halves of the brain are connected
>by a smaller number of fibres than a woman's, the flow of information
>between one side of the brain and the other is more restricted. It is then
>often more difficult for a man to express his emotions because the
>information is flowing less easily to the verbal, left side of his brain.
>     A woman may be less able to separate emotion from reason because of
>the way the female brain is organised. The female brain has emotional
>capacities on both sides of the brain, plus there is more information
>exchanged between the two sides of the brain. The emotional side is more
>integrated with the verbal side of the brain. A woman can express her
>emotions in words because what she feels has been transmitted more
>effectively to the verbal side of ther brain.
>     The differences in brain structure, and the consequent differences in
>ability, bias men and women towards dealing with problems by employing
>their best attributes. Sandra Witleson calls this 'the preferred cognitive
>strategy'. What it broadly means is playing to your mental strenghts.
>Witleson suggests that there may be fewer female than male architects (and,
>for that matter, scientists and mathematicians) because, the female spatial
>sense being weaker, they tend to prefer a different 'cognitive strategy' -
>to use another, stronger, part of their brain. It could also explain the
>riddle of why there are so many more female musician than composers,
>because they play to strengths in the female brain such as control over
>fine movement of the hands and voice. Composing music demand the capacity
>to see the pattern and involves abstract mathematical ability, primarily a
>function of the right side of the brain. Obviously our culture and our
>history has something to do with; but, clearly, so does our biology.
>
>A picture is emerging, and it is the image of two brains, differently
>organised, and differentially connected, in the male and the female of our
>species. The knowledge is growing, day by day, as new papers and monographs
>appear in the learned journals. This information is too important to be
>left floating in academic outer space because it is about *us*. It shows
>how we are different because our brains are different."
>     
>From Ackowledments: "...In the end, however, the book is ours, and only we
>can be held responsible for any flaws it may have."
>
>To quote Dr Richard  Restak, neurologist, from the book.
> We ignore brain sex differences at the risk of confusing biology with
>sociology, and wishful thinking with scientific facts. The question is not
>'are there brain differences?' but rather 'what is going to be our response
>to those differences?'
>
>NOTES ON THE CHAPTERS:
>p.46  'Sandra Witelson...' Witleson, S. (1978)
>p.47  'In women the corpus...' De Lacoste-Utamising, C., et al. articles;
>in conversation with Kimura, K. and Hines, M.
>'And the latest research...' in conversation with Hines, M.
>p.48  'Some scientist suggest...' Butler, S.; McGuinness, D., 45-46;
>Restak, R., 192-204; Witleson, S. (1978) and 1985) and In converson.
>'Sadra Witleson call...' Witleson, S. (1978).
>
>REFERENCES:
>To Chaper Three
>Balkan, P., 'The eyes have it', *Psychology Today* (April 1971), 64-67.
>Butler, S., 'Sex differences in human cerebra function', *Progress In Brain
>Research*, 61, De Vries, G.J. et al. (eds.), Elsevier, Amsterdam (1984),
>443-55.
>Calvin, W.and Ojemann, G., *Inside the Brain*, New American Library, New
>York (1981).
>Delacoste-Utamsing, C. and Holloway, R.L., 'Sexual dimorphism in the human
>corpus callosum", *Sience*, 216 (1982), 1431-32.
>De Lacoste-Utamsing, C. and Holloway, R.L., 'Sexual dimorphism in the human
>corpus callosum' *Human Neurobiology*, 5 (1986) 93-96.
>De Lacoste-Utamsing, C. and Holloway, R.L., 'Sex differences in the fetal
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>Dyer, R.G., 'Sexual differentiation of the forebrain-relationship to
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>Flor Henery, P., 'Gender, hemispheric specialization and psychopathology',
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>Gaulin, S.J.C.: see ref to Chpt 1
>Gordon, H. W. and Galatzer, A., 'Cerebra organization in patients with
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>Gur, R. and Gur, R. 'Sex and handedness differences in cerebral blood flow,
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>Hecgen, H et al., 'Cerebral organisation in left handers'. *Brain and
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>Hines, M., 'Prenatal gonadal hormones and sex differences in human
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>Kimura, D. and Harshman, R., 'Sex differences in brain organisation for
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>Kimura, D., 'Male brain, female brain: the hidden difference', *Psychology
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>Kimura, D., 'How different are the male and female brains?', *Orbit*, 17
>(3) (October 1986), 13-14.
>Kimura, D., 'Are men's and women's brains really different?', *Canadian
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>Levy, J., 'Lateral differences in the human brain in cognition and
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>Mateer, C. A.  et al., 'Sexual variation incortical localisation of naming
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>organisation', *Advances in Clinical Neuropsycology*, 3, Goldstein, G. and
>Tarter, R. E. (eds.),Plenum Publishing Corp. (1986), 1-30.
>Nyborg, H., 'Spatial ability in men and women: review and new theory',
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>Nyborg, H., 'Performance and intelligence in hormonally different groups',
>*Progress in Brain Research*, 61, De Vries, G.J. et al. (eds), Elsevier,
>Amsterdam (1984), 491-508.
>Reinisch, J. M.: see ref to Chp 2.
>Sperry, R., 'Some effects of disconnecting cerebral hemispheres',
>*Sciences*, 217 (1982), 1223-26.
>Springer, S.P. and Deutsch, G., *Left Brain, Right Brain*, W. H. Freedman
>and Co., New York (1985).
>Tucker, D.M., 'Sex differences in hemispheric specialization for synthetic
>visuospatial functions', *Neuropsychologia, 14 (1976), 447-54.
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>Witleson, S. F. 'Left hemisphere specialization for language in the newborn
>brain', 96 (1973), 641-46.
>Witleson, S. F. 'Hemispheric specialization for linguistic and
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>technique', *Cortex*, 10 (1974), 3-7.
>Witleson, S. F. 'Sex and the single hemisphere: specialization of the right
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>(eds.), North-Holland Publishing Co. Amsterdam (1978), 261-83.
>==
>That's just the 1 1/4 pages of references that peratin to Chapter 3.
>There's another 17 pages of references pertaining to the rest of this book.
>
>
>

-- 
Diane Pritchatt



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