Do men and women have different brains? Science settles this age-old debate

Has your husband ever accused you of being incapable of map-reading? Have you ever teased him for not being a better communicator? Often we attribute these differences in male and female behaviour to the ways our brain operate, but is that a fair assumption?

While science has always accepted a categorical difference between male and female genitalia – the ‘gender’ of human brains has normally left room for debate. Now a newly published study has revealed that brains are better understood as ‘a unique mosaic of features,’ that comprise a spectrum between male and female.

Using extensive MRI scans, researchers examined the white matter, grey matter and connective brain tissues of more than 1400 people. These scans could not reveal any consistent differences between male and female brains, with the report concluding “human brains cannot be categorised into two distinct classes.”

The study’s author, Professor Daphna Joel, explained that people typically over-estimate how hormones can influence the human brain: “The theory goes that once a fetus develops testicles, they secrete testosterone which masculinises the entire brain.”

“It that were true, there would be two types of brains – male brains in boys and female brains in girls,” Joel said. Instead, Joel’s team noticed significant overlaps in the ways that male and female brains are structured.

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“Our study suggests that there are many ways to be male, and many ways to be female,” explains Joel. Socialisation, gender perception and desires all play an important role in determining ‘who’ we are.

Do you believe your brain is wired to be particularly male, or particularly female?