Women have more active brains than men

August 7, 2017
Side view of the brain summarizing blood flow results from tens of thousands of study subjects shows increased blood flow in women compared to men, highlighted in the red colored areas of the brain: the cingulate gyrus and precuneus. Men in this image have higher blood flow in blue colored areas -- the cerebellum. Credit: Journal of Alzheimer's Disease

In the largest functional brain imaging study to date, the Amen Clinics (Newport Beach, CA) compared 46,034 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) imaging studies provided by nine clinics, quantifying differences between the brains of men and women. The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Lead author, psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, MD, founder of Amen Clinics, Inc., commented, "This is a very important study to help understand gender-based differences. The quantifiable differences we identified between men and women are important for understanding gender-based risk for brain such as Alzheimer's disease. Using functional neuroimaging tools, such as SPECT, are essential to developing precision medicine brain treatments in the future."

The brains of women in the study were 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 more active in men. SPECT can measure blood perfusion in the brain. Images acquired from subjects at rest or while performing various cognitive tasks will 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, bipolar disorders, 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 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%).

Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Dean of the College of Sciences at The University of Texas at San Antonio, Dr. George Perry said, "Precisely defining the physiological and structural basis of gender differences in brain function will illuminate Alzheimer's disease and understanding our partners."

The study findings of increased 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 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.

Explore further: Can omega-3 help prevent Alzheimer's disease? Brain SPECT imaging shows possible link

More information: Daniel G. Amen et al, Gender-Based Cerebral Perfusion Differences in 46,034 Functional Neuroimaging Scans, Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (2017). DOI: 10.3233/JAD-170432

Related Stories

Can omega-3 help prevent Alzheimer's disease? Brain SPECT imaging shows possible link

May 19, 2017
The incidence of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is expected to triple in the coming decades and no cure has been found. Recently, interest in dietary approaches for prevention of cognitive decline has increased. In particular, ...

Is it depression or dementia? Brain SPECT imaging helps distinguish them

February 15, 2017
Does a patient have depression or a cognitive disorder (CD) such as Alzheimer's disease or both? Since both disorders have overlapping symptoms, how can a clinician tell them apart to make an appropriate diagnosis? In a new ...

New study shows marijuana users have low blood flow to the brain

November 28, 2016
As the U.S. races to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, a new, large scale brain imaging study gives reason for caution. Published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers using single photon ...

A different take on differences between men's and women's brains

June 28, 2017
There is greater variety in the size of men's brains than of women's. This could help explain why some psychiatric disorders such as ADHD and autism are more prevalent in boys. Leiden brain researcher Lara Wierenga has published ...

Abnormally low blood flow indicates damage to NFL players' brains

April 26, 2016
The discovery of brain pathology through autopsy in former National Football League (NFL) players called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has raised substantial concern among players, medical professionals, and the ...

Pot may restrict blood flow to brain: study

December 30, 2016
(HealthDay)—Marijuana appears to hamper blood flow to the brain, which theoretically could affect your memory and ability to reason, a new study suggests.

Recommended for you

Nature or nurture? Innate social behaviors in the mouse brain

October 18, 2017
Adult male mice have a simple repertoire of innate, or instinctive, social behaviors: When encountering a female, a male mouse will try to mate with it, and when encountering another male, the mouse will attack. The animals ...

Brain activity predicts crowdfunding outcomes better than self-reports

October 18, 2017
Surveys and self-reports are a time-honored way of trying to predict consumer behavior, but they have limitations. People often give socially desirable answers or they simply don't know or remember things clearly.

Navigational view of the brain thanks to powerful X-rays

October 18, 2017
If brain imaging could be compared to Google Earth, neuroscientists would already have a pretty good "satellite view" of the brain, and a great "street view" of neuron details. But navigating how the brain computes is arguably ...

'Wasabi receptor' for pain discovered in flatworms

October 18, 2017
A Northwestern University research team has discovered how scalding heat and tissue injury activate an ancient "pain" receptor in simple animals. The findings could lead to new strategies for analgesic drug design for the ...

Changing stroke definitions is causing chaos, warns professor

October 18, 2017
Proposals to change the definitions of stroke and related conditions are causing confusion and chaos in clinical practice and research, a Monash University associate professor has warned.

Brain-machine interfaces to treat neurological disease

October 18, 2017
Since the 19th century at least, humans have wondered what could be accomplished by linking our brains – smart and flexible but prone to disease and disarray – directly to technology in all its cold, hard precision. Writers ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

benn3012
not rated yet Aug 07, 2017
What is the bedrock determination of which test subjects were men and which were women? It seems that society is content to allow that to be a temporal variable.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.