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Have you ever wondered why they often say that Men are from Mars and Women from Venus? Or why you and your partner usually end up walking away from conversations with completely opposite understandings of what was discussed?

Men are from Mars and Women from Venus

If you think that it is just because of the circumstances that have caused the two genders to react differently down the years. Then you may not be right. In fact recent scientific research has found that minute differences between the male and female brains are the clue to the difference between the two sexes. So ultimately it boils down to the way the two genders are wired.

While it's not completely clear how the structural differences in male and female brains affect their function, scientists theorize that the most likely impact is upon the way men and women process information.

Studies have elaborated the following differences in the brains of males and females. 

(1) Total brain size: There is a considerable difference in the brain weights of men and women with the average brain weight in adult men being about 11-12% more than the average brain weight of women. Also due to the larger built, larger muscle mass, and larger size of men’s bodies, men's heads measure about 2% more than women's.

(2) Cell number: The brain cells and brain tissue is 4% and 100 gms respectively more in men. This explains the reason why even though the net loss of neurons is the same, women are more prone to dementia (such as Alzheimer's disease) than men. This is because in males the additional 4% of nerve cells provides a functional reserve of neurons and hence prevents the functional losses that may occur.

(3) Cellular connections: This is the number of neurons present and studies show that men have more neurons in the cerebral cortex whereas women have a more developed neuropil(the space between cell bodies) which contains synapses, dendrites and axons. These neuropils render better communication among neurons.

(4) Corpus collosum: Research shows that a woman's brain contains a larger corpus collosum, which signifies that women can transfer data between the right and left hemisphere faster than men, who tend to be more left brained.

(5) Language: It is shown that the areas of Broca and Wernicke (areas in the frontal and temporal lobes related to language) are larger in women, thus providing an understanding for women's superiority in language skills. This gives women a distinct advantage over men for whom language is most often just in the dominant hemisphere (usually the left side). Therefore if a woman has a stroke in the left front side of the brain, she may still retain some language from the right front side. Whereas men who have the same left sided damage are less likely to recover.

(6) Inferior parietal lobule (IPL): It is the segment of the brain, which deals with the mathematical abilities. It is shown that the IPL is significantly larger in men than in women and the left side IPL is larger in men whereas in women the right side IPL is larger.

(7) Orbitofrontal to amygdale ratio (OAR): It is the ratio of the size of the orbitofrontal cortex (region involved in regulating emotions} to the size of the amygdala, (region involved in the production of emotional reactions). Studies have proven that women harbour a substantially larger orbitofrontal-to-amygdala ratio (OAR) than men. From these findings one can deduce that women might on average prove more capable of controlling their emotional reactions.

(8) Limbic size: The deep limbic system of females is larger than that of males. The advantages associated with this are that women are better able to express their feelings and are more in sync with their feelings than men. Another upside is that due to the deeper limbic system women are able to bond better with others. The disadvantage is that women are more prone to depression, especially during the onset of puberty, before menses, or after giving birth and at menopause.

The reason for these structural differences is mainly due to evolution. During the development of the embryo in the womb, circulating hormones like androgens cause the formation of a male brain while the absence of these hormones results in the female brain.

So does this structural and functional difference imply a superiority or inferiority difference between men and women? No, these anatomical differences are usually adapted to generalize attitudes when looking at large populations – there can always be exceptions.

So what can we deduce form these structural differences?

  • The male brain is highly specialized, using specific parts of one hemisphere or the other to accomplish specific tasks. The female brain is more diffused and utilizes significant portions of both hemispheres for a variety of tasks.
  • Martians tend to approach communication with a task-oriented "let's fix the problem" state of mind, while Venusians tend to be more creative and aware of feelings in their communication style.
  • Women's larger deep limbic systems implies that Venusians tend to be more in touch with their feelings and are better able to express them than men. Also Venusian's have an increased ability to connect and bond with others.
  • Men can focus their brains on particular tasks or activities for long periods of time without getting tired whereas women are capable of multi-tasking.
  • Men are able to focus on narrow issues and block out unrelated information and distractions. Women generally see everyday things from a broader perspective or tend to se the "big-picture".
  • Men are able to separate information, stimulus, emotions, relationships, etc. into separate compartments in their brains, while women tend to link everything together.
  • Men see individual issues with parts of their brain, while women use their entire brain (i.e. both hemispheres) to look at the holistic or multiple issues.
  • In men, the dominant perceptual sense is vision, which is typically not the case with women. All of a woman's senses are, in some respects, more finely tuned than those of a man.

Even though the facts clearly bring out the structural differences in male and female brains it is not a basis of description of every man and every woman. Every person is different and unique.

These subtle brain differences can help us gauge a better understanding and appreciation for the unique strengths and qualities we possess. The more men and women understand about these differences, the easier it is to understand each other!

  • Blum, D. - "Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women". Penguin, 1998
  • Bishop K.M. and Wahlsten, D. Sex differences in the human corpus callosum: myth or reality? Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews vol 21 (5) 581 - 601, 1997.