Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sex Difference On Spatial Skill Test Linked To Brain Structure

Date:
December 18, 2008
Source:
University of Iowa
Summary:
Men consistently outperform women on spatial tasks, including mental rotation, which is the ability to identify how a 3-D object would appear if rotated in space. A new study shows a connection between this sex-linked ability and the structure of the parietal lobe, the brain region that controls this type of skill.

Men consistently outperform women on spatial tasks, including mental rotation, which is the ability to identify how a 3-D object would appear if rotated in space. Now, a University of Iowa study shows a connection between this sex-linked ability and the structure of the parietal lobe, the brain region that controls this type of skill.

Related Articles


The parietal lobe was already known to differ between men and women, with women's parietal lobes having proportionally thicker cortexes or "grey matter." But this difference was never linked back to actual performance differences on the mental rotation test.

UI researchers found that a thicker cortex in the parietal lobe in women is associated with poorer mental rotation ability, and in a new structural discovery, that the surface area of the parietal lobe is increased in men, compared to women. Moreover, in men, the greater parietal lobe surface area is directly related to better performance on mental rotation tasks.

The study results were published online Nov. 5 by the journal Brain and Cognition.

"Differences in parietal lobe activation have been seen in other studies. This study represents the first time we have related specific structural differences in the parietal lobe to sex-linked performances on a mental rotation test," said Tim Koscik, the study's lead author and a graduate student in the University of Iowa Neuroscience Graduate Program. "It's important to note that it isn't that women cannot do the mental rotation tasks, but they appear to do them slower, and neither men nor women perform the tasks perfectly."

The study was based on tests of 76 healthy Caucasian volunteers -- 38 women and 38 men, all right-handed except for two men. The groups were matched for age, education, IQ and socioeconomic upbringing. When tested on mental rotation tasks, men averaged 66 percent correct compared to 53 percent correct for women. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed an approximately 10 percent difference between men and women in the overall amount of parietal lobe surface area: 43 square centimeters for men and 40 square centimeters for women.

"It's likely that the larger surface area in men's parietal lobes leads to an increase in functional columns, which are the processing unit in the cortex," said Koscik. "This may represent a specialization for certain spatial abilities in men."

The findings underscore the fact that not only is the brain structure different between men and women but also the way the brain performs a task is different, said Peg Nopoulos, M.D., a study co-author and professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

"One possible explanation is that the different brain structures allow for different strategies used by men and women. While men appear able to globally rotate an object in space, women seem to do it piecemeal. The strategy is inefficient but it may be the approach they need to take," said Nopoulos, who also is a psychiatrist with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

"The big question remains whether this is nature or nurture. On the one hand, boys, compared to girls, may have opportunities to cultivate this skill, but if we eventually see both a strong performance and parietal lobe structural difference in children, it would support a biological, not just environmental, effect," Nopoulos added.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Iowa. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Iowa. "Sex Difference On Spatial Skill Test Linked To Brain Structure." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081217124430.htm>.
University of Iowa. (2008, December 18). Sex Difference On Spatial Skill Test Linked To Brain Structure. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081217124430.htm
University of Iowa. "Sex Difference On Spatial Skill Test Linked To Brain Structure." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081217124430.htm (accessed April 19, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) — Researchers found a spike in oxytocin occurs in both humans and dogs when they gaze into each other&apos;s eyes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) — Researchers who analyzed data from over 300,000 kids and their mothers say they&apos;ve found a link between gestational diabetes and autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) — Family members are prerecording messages as part of a unique pilot program at the Hebrew Home in New York. The videos are trying to help victims of Alzheimer&apos;s disease and other forms of dementia break through the morning fog of forgetfulness. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2015) — Each week, millions of Americans take acetaminophen to dull minor aches and pains. Now researchers say it might blunt life&apos;s highs and lows, too. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins