Scientists Find Genes that Make Sexes Think Differently

War of the Sexes

Surprise, surprise scientists tell us the obvious, men and women think totally different now if they can only figure out why

via Times Online

Men are more prone to aggression and risk-taking behavior, and tend to be proficient at understanding and devising systems, from car engines to the offside law.

While there are no sex differences in general intelligence, women tend to have stronger visual memories, while men are more proficient at visualizing objects when rotated in space. It has been suggested that this may reflect the way most men like to navigate by reading maps, while many women prefer to remember landmarks.

Such observations have led Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, of the University of Cambridge, to suggest the existence of “empathizing-type” and “systemising-type” brains, the first of which is more common among men and the second among women. Professor Baron-Cohen said: “This is a very original study, testing which genes are expressed differently in males and females across different primate species. It confirms the supposition that genetic sex differences are expressed not just in the secondary sexual characteristics in the body, but in the brain.

“Finding genes that are conserved across species points to the evolution of these genetic sex differences, and finding them in the brain suggests that they may in part influence the way the mind works, and in part influence our behavior.”

Men and women also differ in their approach to finding sexual partners. Men generally place a higher value on youth and good looks, while women are often more attracted by status.

The new study, led by Elena Jazin, of the University of Uppsala in Sweden, does not directly prove that any of these traits is related to differences in gene activity, but it shows a contrasting genetic architecture of male and female brains that could plausibly contribute.

While the two sexes have the same basic genes, many of these are more active in the brains of only one sex. These gender-specific patterns of gene expression could affect many aspects of behavior, the researchers said.

“The obvious question to follow is whether or not these signatures of sex in the brain have physiological significance for brain physiology and/or behavior,” they wrote in the journal Public Library of Science Genetics.

“Our results suggest that variation in expression of genes in the brain may be an important component of behavioral variation within as well as between species.” The differences could also explain sex variations in mental health and neurological diseases: women, for instance, are more at risk of depression and Alzheimer’s.

“Knowledge about gender differences is important for many reasons,” Dr Jazin said. “For example, this information may be used in the future to calculate medical dosages, as well as for other treatments of diseases or damage to the brain.”The scientists said that their work needed to be followed up to examine whether any human behavioral or health differences were related to the sex-specific gene expression profiles.

Women and men may genuinely think in different ways, according to research that has found subtle genetic variations between their brains.

Hundreds of genes that are switched on and off differently in the male and female brain have been identified, suggesting that many patterns of behavior regarded widely as typical of each sex could be founded on nature as well as nurture.

Dozens of mental traits and skills are said to differ between men and women. They include empathy, aggression, risk-taking, navigation and the qualities that are valued most in a sexual partner.

The existence of such differences is now widely accepted, but natural and social scientists have long disagreed about the extent to which they are rooted in our underlying biology, or are learnt through male and female social roles. Women are generally more accomplished than men at empathizing with other people, and usually score as more compassionate on standard personality tests.

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