Navigation Links
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 that girls still showed significantly greater activation in language areas of the brain than boys. The information in the tasks got through to girls language areas of the brain -- areas associated with abstract thinking through language. And their performance accuracy correlated with the degree of activation in some of these language areas.

To their astonishment, however, this was not at all the case for boys. In boys, accurate performance depended -- when reading words -- on how hard visual areas of the brain worked. In hearing words, boys performance depended on how hard auditory areas of the brain worked.

If that pattern extends to language processing that occurs in the classroom, it could inform teaching and testing methods.

Given boys sensory approach, boys might be more effectively evaluated on knowledge gained from lectures via oral tests and on knowledge gained by reading via written tests. For girls, whose language processing appears more abstract in approach, these different testing methods would appear unnecessary.

One possibility is that boys have some kind of bottleneck in their sensory processes that can hold up visual or auditory information and keep it from being fed into the language areas of the brain, Burman said. This could result simply from girls developing faster than boys, in which case the differences between the sexes might disappear by adulthood.

Or, an alternative explanation is that boys create visual and auditory associations such that meanings associated with a word are brought to mind simply from seeing or hearing the word.

While the second explanation puts males at a disadvantage in more abstract language function, those kinds of sensory associations may have provided an evolutionary advantage for primitive men whose survival required them to quickly recognize danger-associated sights and sounds.

If the pattern of females relying on an abstract language network and of males relying on sensory areas of the brain extends into adulthood -- a still unresolved question -- it could explain why women often provide more context and abstract representation than men.

Ask a woman for directions and you may hear something like: Turn left on Main Street, go one block past the drug store, and then turn right, where theres a flower shop on one corner and a cafe across the street.

Such information-laden directions may be helpful for women because all information is relevant to the abstract concept of where to turn; however, men may require only one cue and be distracted by additional information.


'/>"/>

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

Related medicine news :

1. Research says doctors gender may hinder early diagnosis of heart disease in women
2. PA Health Department Survey Shows Impact of Income, Gender, Other Factors on Health and Access to Health Care
3. Survey shows gender differences are factor when surgeons in training choose a subspecialty
4. Race, Gender Affect Laryngeal Cancer Survival
5. Climate change, gender differences, health among EurekAlert! 10 Most Popular Stories in 2007
6. Fungus Sheds Light on Development of Human Genders
7. Iowa State University researchers work on gender, temperature link in reptiles published in Nature
8. QED International Associates Announces Changes to the HealthShares(TM) GI/Gender Health Index
9. Survival differences by race most apparent in advanced stages of breast cancer
10. Gene Studies of Male-Female Differences Often Flawed
11. Major differences revealed in how local authorities in the UK support disabled people
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/13/2016)... ... ... With FCPX Overlay Embers from Pixel Film Studios users can now apply ... user can select from up to 40 effect overlays. With FCPX Overlay Embers users ... value, contrast, glow, and more all within a click of a mouse. , ...
(Date:2/13/2016)... , ... February 13, 2016 , ... ... of Nursing with an in-kind gift of a VeinViewer® Vision vein finder ... they learn how to start an IV and draw blood, combining technology with ...
(Date:2/13/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... February 13, 2016 , ... ... Tech Outlook’s top Clinical Data Management Solution Providers list for its expertise in ... functional and domain expertise to serve the technology needs of global clients. DDi ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... ... February 12, 2016 , ... The law firm of Morrow, Morrow, Ryan ... The purpose of these scholarships is to encourage applicants to pursue a degree in ... within these two parishes. , “We have available jobs in St. Landry and ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... Falls Church, VA (PRWEB) , ... February 12, 2016 , ... CDRH Enforcement Trends: , ... http://www.fdanews.com/cdrhenforcementtrends , As Winston Churchill said, “Those who don’t learn ... 2015 will show what to expect when they come knocking this year. But that takes ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/12/2016)... /PRNewswire/ - Demers Ambulances announces its first delivery in the state ... County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) consisting of four ... van. Quality Emergency Vehicles in Lecanto, FL ... This is the latest in Demers, ongoing expansion of sales.  ... Demers. --> Benoit LaFortune , Executive Vice President ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... Feb. 12, 2016   HeartWare International, Inc . ... and webcast to discuss its financial results for the ... Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 8:00 a.m. ET.  The ... the conference call and webcast.  On the conference call ... highlights from the fourth quarter and business outlook.   ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... Kalifornien, 12. Februar 2016  Sequent Medical, Inc. ... von Patienten für eine Studie zur Sicherheit und ... speziell für die Behandlung von rupturierten intrakraniellen Aneurysmen ... Leiter der Neuroradiologie an der Universitätsklinik Bicètre in ... der CLARYS-Studie hat den ersten Patienten aufgenommen. ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: