Examining the different wiring of boys’ and girls’ brains as they develop
“‘You should write a book,’ Ron told Hermione, ‘…translating mad things girls do so boys can understand them.’”
While this may not be an entire book, hopefully this article will shed some light on why boys and girls brains work so differently. Maybe it will even help boys to understand the “mad things” girls do, and vice versa.
Generally speaking, the brain develops the same way in boys as it does in girls.
“The brain develops from the back to the front, so these frontal lobes in teens don’t really develop fully until you’re twenty-five which is in some ways good, it makes you risky which makes you ready to go out into the world,” said science teacher Nancy Cripe.
The difference between the genders is characterized by the use of certain areas of the brain, the connections within it, and how each brain reacts to stimulation. But keep in mind that both the brain, and the human being in general, are very complex things and cannot fully be categorized based on gender.
Many people often understand more than they know about how the brain works in different genders. Author John Green once said in one of his numerous vlogbrothers YouTube videos, “Isn’t it enough just to show you that I love you without having to talk about it? I’m a boy! I don’t like to talk about it.” This exclamation, while being humorous is also actually based in real facts about brain development.
In comparison to the boys who don’t want to talk, according to The Scientist magazine’s senior editor Bob Grant, “The female brain facilitates emotional processing and the ability to infer other’s intentions in social interactions.” In other words, the female is more likely to understand subtle things in conversation.
More proof of the differences between the male and female brain comes with the amount of talking each gender does in comparison to one another.
“If you count the amount of words [females] speak in an average day, they’ll speak about 50,000 words. The average male will speak about 30,000 words,” said Cripe.
There was a study done in 2013, where 949 brains of young men and women, 428 male, and 521 female between the ages of 8 and 22, were scanned and using MRI imaging were able to map out the connections in each of the brains. The study found that, said Dr. Ragini Verma, a scientist who did the study, “Male brains facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action, whereas female brains facilitate communication between analytical and intuitive processing modes.” Because men had more of a connection between the frontal front and the back occipital lobe, while females had a stronger connection between the right and the left-brain.
The occipital lobe is where vision occurs. What someone sees comes in and crosses the brain, visual input from the left goes to the right side of the brain etc., into the back of the brain which is called the occipital lobe. So it makes sense that vision oriented men will have a stronger connection here than more analytical women.
“For the male brain, there are a lot more neural connections, in saying they are a lot more nerve cells that are connecting these frontal lobes to the back of the brain and also to the cerebrum, “the little brain”,” said Cripe. “Which has to do with motor coordination and muscle memory and these kinds of things, so there are a lot more connections going front to back.”
In female brain, the connections between the right and the left brain are in something called the corpus callosum which is “a thick band of nerve fibers that divides the cerebrum, the largest system and deals with the higher brain functions of thinking and action, into left and right hemispheres. It connects the left and right sides of the brain, allowing for communication between both hemispheres. The corpus callosum transfers motor, sensory, and cognitive information between the brain hemispheres.” According to Biology About.
“In females, if you measure the size of the corpus callosum it is actually larger than in male brains,” said Cripe.
With this in mind, the ability to multi-task is more common in girls because they are capable to of switching back and forth between hemispheres more easily, according to the study done in 2013 (reference to the above study). However, even though men can’t multi-task as well as women because of the way their brains are wired they have an easier time of focusing.
“For the male brain, there is a great deal of concentration and focus,” said Cripe. “It’s not going to flip over to the other side of the brain.”
Yet another difference between the male and female brain is what acts as the most effective stimulant: for males it’s visual, for females it’s tactile.
“The male brain is stimulated a great deal by visual sensory input,” said Cripe. “For instance, with video games and movies and iPads, boys are generally more involved. After a while girls would probably close their iPads up and talk to each other, whereas boys will sort of parallel play, they’ll have their screens and have their visual input.”
There is a bit of advice to be taken away from this.
“The stereotypical girl is not going to be so interested necessarily in the guy who’s hot, just because he’s hot,” said Cripe. “If he’s a jerk or can’t communicate with you, you’re not going to enter into a long-term relationship with him because you’re more focused on the intuitive, communication, security parts of a relationship and if he holds your hand…be careful because that’s what would be the hook for the female; the touch.”
So maybe the opposite sexes will never fully understand each other because of the different hard wiring of their brains, but maybe that’s half of what makes the world work.
“Two great strengths and the best is when they’re together and there’s this kind of complementarity in the male and the female brain,” said Cripe. “It’s not that one is better than the other, they just work differently.”