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Gender differences hard wired

GUEST COLUMN

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Tom Purcell

A new study has come out that finds men and women really do think differently.

According to The Independent, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania used a new and very precise brain-scanning technique, diffusion tensor imaging, to create a neural map of the human brain.

The technique has found that male and female brains are wired differently.

“Researchers found that many of the connections in a typical male brain run between the front and the back of the same side of the brain, whereas in women the connections are more likely to run from side to side between the left and right hemispheres of the brain,” reports The Independent.

Why is this important?

Because “the brain could play an important role in understanding why men are in general better at spatial tasks involving muscle control, while women are better at verbal tasks involving memory and intuition.”

Which reminds me of my sister Lisa’s favorite joke: “Men are only good for one thing! But who cares about parallel parking, anyway!”

The fact of the matter is that men and women are and always have been wired differently. It’s written in our DNA.

Women tend to be more intuitive than men. Ragini Verma, a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Independent why.

“Because the female connections link the left hemisphere, which is associated with logical thinking, with the right, which is linked with intuition, this could help to explain why women tend to do better than men at intuitive tasks,” she said. “Intuition is thinking without thinking. It’s what people call gut feelings. Women tend to be better than men at these kinds of skills, which are linked with being good mothers.”

In this nutty world, it is considered sexist, in some places, to compliment a woman for being a good mother - or to insist that mothers have some unique parenting skills that fathers likely lack.

But don’t ask me, ask humorist Dave Barry, whom I will now paraphrase: The difference between fathers and mothers is that mothers are far less likely to drive off with the baby still sitting on the roof of the car.

Many other studies over the years have gained insight into the differences between men and women.

Take dust. Whereas the male brain is more wired for navigating outdoor activities, such as hunting woolly mammoths, the female brain is wired to notice more sensory detail. Men are less likely to notice dust, which, women tell me, is a mix of fine particles that settle on furniture.

Listening offers another important distinction between men and women. One brain imaging study shows that men listen with only one side of their brain, whereas women use both. (Women would be shocked if they knew how many other things we do using half a brain.) Since women listen using several regions on both sides of their brain, they are more likely to remember things - in particular, every single wrong thing we men have ever said or done.

The Independent reports that the brain-mapping technology used in the University of Pennsylvania study will not only help understand differences between men and women, but also provide more insight into neurological disorders, which are often gender-related.

It’s a grand thing that modern researchers continue to make strides into human biology and behavior. It’s just too bad that we need studies to affirm what most of us have always known to be true. That men and women are different - and we should celebrate our differences rather than pretend they are not so.

‑ Tom Purcell is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. (Purcell@caglecartoons.com).

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