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Brain activity level greater in women than men
August 20, 2017, 12:48 pm

In the largest imaging study of functional brain to date, researchers compared 46,034 brain imaging studies provided by nine clinics in the United States, quantifying differences between the brains of men and women.

Psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, MD, founder of Amen Clinics in California where the study was organized said: “This is a very important study to help understand gender-based brain differences. The quantifiable differences we identified between men and women are important for understanding gender-based risk for brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and could help develop precision medicine treatments for the brain in future."

The brains of women in the study were found to be significantly more active in many more areas of the brain than men, especially in the prefrontal cortex, involved with focus and impulse control, and the limbic or emotional areas of the brain, involved with mood and anxiety. The visual and coordination centers of the brain were found to be more active in men.

By using a nuclear brain scanning test called SPECT (Single photon emission computerized tomography) that can reveal not just the structure of an organ but also how it works, researchers were able to measure blood perfusion in the brain. Images acquired from subjects at rest or while performing various cognitive tasks show different blood flow in specific brain regions.

Subjects included 119 healthy volunteers and 26,683 patients with a variety of psychiatric conditions such as brain trauma, mood disorders, schizophrenia/psychotic disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A total of 128 brain regions were analyzed for subjects at baseline and while performing a concentration task.

Understanding these differences is important because brain disorders affect men and women differently. Women have significantly higher rates of Alzheimer's disease, depression, which is itself is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, and anxiety disorders, while men have higher rates of (ADHD), conduct-related problems, and incarceration (by 1,400%).

The study findings of increased prefrontal cortex blood flow in women compared to men may explain why women tend to exhibit greater strengths in the areas of empathy, intuition, collaboration, self-control, and appropriate concern. The study also found increased blood flow in limbic areas of the brains of women, which may also partially explain why women are more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and eating disorders.


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