The brains of women are 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, new research has found.
“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,” said lead author Daniel Amen, Founder, Amen Clinics, Newport Beach, California.
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, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, also showed 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.
The visual and coordination centres of the brain were more active in men.
The researchers surveyed the results of more than 45,000 brain imaging studies involving single-photon emission computed tomography, or SPECT.
SPECT can measure blood perfusion in the brain. Images acquired from participants at rest or while performing various cognitive tasks show different blood flow in specific brain regions.
“Using functional neuroimaging tools, such as SPECT, are essential to developing precision medicine brain treatments in the future,” Amen said.
A total of 128 brain regions were analysed for participants 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 depression, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and anxiety disorders, while men have higher rates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct-related problems.