It’s an age-old debate which continues to raise its head and cause controversy: do men and women’s brains really work differently?

The question is bound to have crossed your mind at least once. Whether it’s mid-argument or simply observing the daily routine of the opposite sex. Staring blankly and wondering: ‘how does your brain work?’ is a question most would love the answer to!

While men might boast larger brains a new study has identified that women’s brains may be more active. In the largest functional brain imaging study to date, researchers from Amen Clinics (in California) aimed to quantify differences between the brains of men and women.

Are men and women’s brains different?

The study compared over 46,000 brain SPECT imaging studies finding that overall, women’s brains are more active than men’s. But what does this mean? Women may like to claim this means they are smarter than men, but sorry ladies, that is yet to be proven.

However, the findings are highly significant from a medical perspective. “This is a very important study to help understand gender-based brain differences,” Lead author and psychiatrist Daniel G Amen said.

“The quantifiable differences we identified between men and women are important for understanding gender-based risk for brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Using functional neuroimaging tools, such as SPECT, are essential to developing precision medicine brain treatments in the future.”

Key findings

Women’s brains were found to be significantly more active than men’s. This was evident in more areas of the brain too, specifically, the prefrontal cortex and limbic or emotional areas. Suggesting better focus and impulse control and association with mood and anxiety. While women’s brains were more active overall, the visual and coordination centres of men’s brains were more active.

What does this mean for medicine?

The results of this study may be able to assist with identifying why women are more likely to have anxiety, depression, insomnia and higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease. As well as identifying why men have higher rates of ADHD and conduct related problems.

“Precisely defining the physiological and structural basis of gender differences in brain functions will illuminate Alzheimer’s disease and understanding our partners,” said Dr George Perry, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

While the findings cannot de-code the seemingly foreign way the opposite sex works, it may help explain why women are said to display greater strengths in empathy, intuition, collaboration, self-control and appropriate concern.