Scientists have long known about differences in how men and women perform verbal and visuospatial tasks, but studies in the past have been inconsistent as to whether men and women actually use different parts of their brains. Now, a new study published in the journal Brain and Language, has confirmed that men and women do indeed use different parts of their brains when performing language or visuospatial tasks.
The researchers said the results could help bring clarity to the current debate about gender and academic achievement, citing the fact that 37 percent of boys score below basic levels on standardized academic tests, compared to 15 percent of girls. Study leader, Dr. Laurie Cutting, added that the results also provided a solid benchmark to use in comparing whether underlying sex differences also exist in all children.
Cutting and co-researcher Amy Clements, both of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, used magnetic resonance imaging to study thirty adult participants while performing language and visuospatial tasks. Distinct differences were evident between male and female participants. "What we found most compelling was that male and female participants performed equally on tasks, both in terms of accuracy and timing; they just used different parts of their brains to get the tasks done," said Clements. "This study forms the basis for understanding early developmental preferences that may differ between boys and girls."
By understanding what constitutes normal brain development and any gender differences that may exist during development, the researchers hope to bolster treatments for pediatric learning disorders. Studies like this one can pave the way towards understanding the extent to which sex differences are developmental, sociological and/or hormonal, and which differences may become more, or possibly less, distinct with age.
Source: Kennedy Krieger Institute