Navigation Links
Sex difference on spatial skill test linked to brain structure

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.

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.


Contact: Becky Soglin
University of Iowa

Related medicine news :

1. An ESC statement on gender differences in medical care and survival after myocardial infarction
2. Jessica Biel and Make The Difference Network Bring Holiday Cheer to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles
3. Large health differences between population groups in Norway
4. Money motivates doctors to reduce ethnic differences in heart disease treatments
5. Traditional Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage Plans: Allsup Finds Knowing the Differences Means Savings for People with Disabilities
6. No Difference in Rate of Survival for Children of Different Races Undergoing Liver Transplantation, but Long-Term Results Not as Good for African-American Adults
7. Majority of voters say election outcome will make a great deal of difference on key issues
8. Towson Student Wins Courage Award, Turns Facial Differences Into Positive Tool
9. Researchers find differences in swallowing mechanism of Rett syndrome patients
10. Gender differences and heart disease
11. States Scorecard Finds Big Differences in Kids Health Care
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... October 13, 2017 , ... As health professionals work to ... “patient engagement.” The patient is doing more than filling out a survey; in many ... is an increasing emphasis in health care and research on the importance of active ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... October 13, 2017 , ... PurhealthRX , a ... utilizing Purzorb™ technology. Applying the Purzorb™process to full spectrum CBD oil will revolutionize the ... a CBD form that can be easily incorporated into liquid products, while reducing costs ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... October 13, 2017 , ... Many families have long-term insurance ... care insurance companies have a waiver for care if the client has a cognitive ... the family pays for care, is often waived, so the benefits from their insurance ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... ... Yisrayl Hawkins, Pastor and Overseer at The House of Yahweh, has released ... understood books in the Holy Scriptures, Revelation. The Book of Revelation paints a picture ... Many have tossed it off as mere rubbish, but Yisrayl Hawkins says that is ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... ... “America On The Brink”: the Christian history of the United States and ... of published author, William Nowers. Captain Nowers and his wife, Millie, have six ... years in the Navy. Following his career as a naval aviator and carrier ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... , Oct. 11, 2017  Caris Life Sciences ... on fulfilling the promise of precision medicine, today announced ... joined Caris, Precision Oncology Alliance™ (POA) as its 17 ... centers, the St. Jude Crosson Cancer Institute will help ... the use of tumor profiling, making cancer treatment more ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... , Oct. 6, 2017   Provista, a ... than $100 billion in purchasing power, today announced a ... information. The Newsroom is the online home ... trends, infographics, expert bios, news releases, slideshows and events. ... to a wealth of resources at their fingertips, viewers ...
(Date:10/2/2017)... 2, 2017 Diplomat Pharmacy, Inc. (NYSE: ... and Consulting, LLC , and named its founder as ... in Tennessee , will operate under ... EnvoyHealth,s service offerings for health care partners to include ... "In an interoperable world, technology delivers ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: