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Gender differences in language appear biological
Date:3/3/2008

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Although researchers have long agreed that girls have superior language abilities than boys, until now no one has clearly provided a biological basis that may account for their differences.

For the first time -- and in unambiguous findings -- researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Haifa show both that areas of the brain associated with language work harder in girls than in boys during language tasks, and that boys and girls rely on different parts of the brain when performing these tasks.

Our findings which suggest that language processing is more sensory in boys and more abstract in girls -- could have major implications for teaching children and even provide support for advocates of single sex classrooms, said Douglas D. Burman, research associate in Northwesterns Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Burman is primary author of Sex Differences in Neural Processing of Language Among Children. Co-authored by James R. Booth (Northwestern University) and Tali Bitan (University of Haifa), the article will be published in the March issue of the journal Neuropsychologia and now is available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.12.021.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers measured brain activity in 31 boys and in 31 girls aged 9 to 15 as they performed spelling and writing language tasks.

The tasks were delivered in two sensory modalities -- visual and auditory. When visually presented, the children read certain words without hearing them. Presented in an auditory mode, they heard words aloud but did not see them.

Using a complex statistical model, the researchers accounted for differences associated with age, gender, type of linguistic judgment, performance accuracy and the method -- written or spoken -- in which words were presented.

The researchers found th
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Contact: Wendy Leopold
w-leopold@northwestern.edu
847-491-4890
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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