By 14 January 2014 | Categories: news


In the battle of the sexes, it seems you win some and you lose some. Here’s how men and women’s heads are so very different, yet oh so similar.

Hard headed or big headed?

It’s official. Women are more hard headed than men. Literally. CT scans of live human brains showed that women’s skulls are, on average, 0.9 mm thicker in the front and 0.6 mm thicker at the back than men’s. But men’s heads are bigger by about 5 mm, both along the length and across the width.

The numbers: 3000 CT scans analysed in the study.

SourceInternational Journal of Vehicle Safety, 2008.

Grey or white?

When it comes to general intelligence, it doesn’t really matter. Brain images have shown that women generally have 10 times more white matter in certain brain areas, while men have about 6.5 times more grey matter. The distribution of two types of brain matter also differs between the sexes. Women show more centralised intellectual processing patterns, while men’s are more distributed. Despite these differences, men and women seem to score similarly on general intelligence tests. 

The numbers: 85% of grey matter areas in the frontal lobe of women’s brains are involved in intelligence.

SourceNeuroImage, 2005

What are you looking at?

Does men and women’s brains differ when it comes to visual acuity? A recent study showed that men are better at seeing fine visual detail and fast-moving stimuli than women, but less sensitive to spotting subtle colour differences.

The numbers: 25% more nerve cells in a man’s visual cortex than in a woman’s.

SourceBiology of Sex Differences, 2012

Dealing with feeling

Men are quite emotional, perhaps even more so than women. A study showed that in a relaxed state, the amygdala, which is tasked with processing emotional memories, is more active in men than in women. Men’s and women’s amygdalas are also differently connected to other brain structures. In men, there’s more cross-talk between the amygdala and brain areas responding to external stimuli such as vision, while in women it is more connected to brain areas that pick up on cues from inside the body. 

The numbers: 86 billion nerve cells likely in a human brain, 14 billion fewer than previously estimated.

SourceNeuroImage, 2006

Task Masters

Having to do everything at once is hard, no matter who you are. But women do seem to be slightly better and faster at getting their heads around several things at once. A recent study showed that when people have to do more than one task simultaneously, both sexes slow down, but women slightly less so than men. In the study women also seemed to be better at devising a strategy for solving a search problem amidst several other tasks. This suggests that women may be slightly better organised under pressure.

The numbers: 8 minutes were allowed for completing three tasks while other distractions were present in the study.

SourceBMC Psychology, 2013

Article first appeared in TechSmart 124, Jan 2014


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