Blue Brain - Pink Brain
The Science Museum
Location: The Science Museum, South Kensington
Duration: 2 hours
Get to know your brain and the way it affects your behaviour in your sexual, romantic and familial relationships. Discover whether gender has to do with brain structure and function, are there tasks men can perform better than women or vice versa? Who has a larger brain? Feminism and pink brains, and most important of all – are men and women equal?
A scientific journey into sex differences, and tools to take back home with you to improve inter and intra personal interactions in everyday life – with the neuroscientist Rachel Lanford (MSc.Med, MBPsS).
Until around 21 years ago, scientists knew of several structural sexual dimorphisms of the brain, but they did not think that sex had any impact on how the human brain performs daily tasks. Through fMRI and PET scan studies, a great deal of information regarding the differences between male and female brains and how much they differ in regards to both structure and function has been uncovered.
But what’s next? Does science enforce or reduce stereotypes about sexuality and sex differences?
Related links and publications
Science Museum under fire over exhibit asking if brains are pink or blue
Neuroscientists say suggestions that male and female brains are fundamentally different are based on gender stereotypes
Neuroscience of sex differences is the study of the characteristics of the brain that separate the male brain and the female brain. Psychological sex differences are thought by some to reflect the interaction of genes, hormones and social learning on brain development throughout the lifespan.
Some evidence from brain morphology and function studies indicates that male and female brains cannot always be assumed to be identical from either a structural or functional perspective, and some brain structures are sexually dimorphic.
The idea that people have either a “female” or “male” brain is an old one, says Daphna Joel at Tel Aviv University in Israel. “The theory goes that once a fetus develops testicles, they secrete testosterone which masculinises the brain,” she says. “If that were true, there would be two types of brain.”
To test the theory, Joel and her colleagues looked for differences in brain scans taken from 1400 people aged between 13 and 85. The team looked for variations in the size of brain regions as well as the connections between them. In total, the group identified 29 brain regions that generally seem to be different sizes in self-identified males and females. These include the hippocampus, which is involved in memory, and the inferior frontal gyrus, which is thought to play a role in risk aversion.