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:1/20/2017)... ... , ... Michael and Betsy Brauser celebrated 5 years of Betsy’s participation in ... has been life-saving as she has been on the trial for more than ... with ovarian cancer in 2009. She underwent standard chemotherapy but a year later went ...
(Date:1/20/2017)... ... 2017 , ... “Mary Magdalene: Grace is Greater than Sin”: a unique ... Jesus Christ firsthand. “Mary Magdalene: Grace is Greater than Sin” is the creation of ... interacting with countless women who had little knowledge of the female characters portrayed in ...
(Date:1/20/2017)... ... ... a fine examination of how God handles sin, including how to let go of lingering ... for over ten long years has been waiting to release this powerful insight about forgiveness ... been serving the Lord for over twenty years, and he has been preaching and teaching ...
(Date:1/20/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... January 20, 2017 , ... “Journey to Christmas:” a beautiful and enchanting ... of published author, Kimberly Cordoves, a mother of three in Oklahoma City, and a devoted ... idea of writing a book has been in the back of my mind for years, ...
(Date:1/20/2017)... ... January 20, 2017 , ... “God's Miracle Man: Against ... Odds” is the creation of published author, Keith C. A. Tucker, son of Minister ... Fellowship World Outreach pastured by Reverend Mark Hardy , “While sitting up in bed, ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:1/20/2017)... 2017  Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. announced today ... Inc., a privately held medical device company ... used in operating rooms worldwide. The acquisition ... energy devices with Megadyne,s innovative portfolio of ... in Ethicon,s goal to deliver the most ...
(Date:1/20/2017)... DUBAI , VAE, January 20, 2017 ... den stark gestiegenen Bedarf an Nothilfe   Die ... um Platz für Hilfsgüter zu schaffen   ... Vizepräsident und Premierminister der VAE sowie Herrscher von ... Umfang der internationalen Stadt der Hilfe (International Humanitarian City ...
(Date:1/19/2017)... Jan. 19, 2017 The Global Therapy Partnering ... access to partnering deals and agreements entered into by ... partnering deals - Top deals by value - Deals ... technology type The report provides understanding and access ... the world,s leading healthcare companies. The report provides ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: