Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Differences in How Men and Women Think Are Hard-Wired

So many things come down to connections—especially the ones in your brain.
Women and men display distinctive differences in how nerve fibers connect various regions of their brains, according to a half-dozen recent studies that highlight gender variation in the brain's wiring diagram. There are trillions of these critical connections, and they are shaped by the interplay of heredity, experience and biochemistry.
No one knows how gender variations in brain wiring might translate into thought and behavior—whether they might influence the way men and women generally perceive reality, process information, form judgments and behave socially—but they are sparking controversy.
Dr. Verma's maps of neural circuitry document the brain at moments when it is in a fury of creation. Starting in infancy, the brain normally produces neurons at a rate of half a million a minute, and reaches out to make connections two million times a second. By age 5, brain size on average has grown to about 90% of adult size. By age 20, the average brain is packed with about 109,000 miles of white matter tissue fibers, according to a 2003 Danish study reported in the Journal of Comparative Neurology.
Spurred by the effects of diet, experience and biochemistry, neurons and synapses are ruthlessly pruned, starting in childhood. The winnowing continues in fits and starts throughout adolescence, then picks up again in middle age. "In childhood, we did not see much difference" between male and female, Dr. Verma said. "Most of the changes we see start happening in adolescence. That is when most of the male-female differences come about."

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