Apr. 1, 2008 It’s not always politically correct to say so, but there are a few minor differences between the brains of men and women. The research of Adrianna Mendrek indicates a reversal of these differences in the brains of schizophrenics.
“In comparison to the general population, women’s brains seem masculine and men’s brains seem feminine,” says Mendrek, a researcher from the Centre de recherche Fernand-Seguin that is affiliated with the Université de Montréal’s Department of Psychiatry.
The main difference between a man’s brain and a woman’s brain has to do with how certain structures and circuits treat emotion. These structures and circuits are usually more elaborate in a woman’s brain. Mendrek wanted to know how a schizophrenic’s brain would react to certain emotional stimuli.
The researcher showed two film excerpts to her test subjects: the first was sad, and the second showed anger. Meanwhile, her subjects underwent an fMRI as they watched the films. The sad film activated certain parts of the male brain that remained unaffected in women. The angry excerpts activated more elaborate and more intense reactions in men.
“These results are surprising seeing as women are usually more emotionally expressive than men,” says Mendrek. “The differences aren’t the result of drugs or of subjective past experience seeing as the emotions were felt identically in all subjects.” But according to the researcher, the profiles of activation in women would indicate that they have more difficulty integrating cognition and emotion associated to stimuli related to empathy.
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