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Scientists continue to study and learn about the physical structure of the human brain. Advances in technology including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allow them to study how the brain works and which portions of the brain are active during different kinds of thought processes, such as doing a math calculation, reading a map, or participating in a conversation.
Gender-specific medicine considers how the brains of men and women are different. Research has shown that the brain of an average man is 10 percent larger than the brain of an average woman. MRI studies show that men and women use different parts of their brains to perform the same tasks, and tend to arrive at the same result despite their different methods. The overall conclusion is that both male and female brains are fully functional – neither is better than the other.
But when it comes to questions of socialization, the differences between brains seem to be more a matter of masculine and feminine than male and female. The experiences children have and the type of environment they grow up in can affect the way their brains work as they grow through puberty to adulthood. While a “female” brain might seem to biologically structured for communications, a girl who is raised to be “tough” may be less likely to share her emotions. So a brain in a female body can show characteristics that are considered to be more masculine than feminine.
These kinds of differences in masculine and feminine characteristics may be the result of conditioning that takes place in the life of every child. A baby’s brain produces half a million neurons (nerve cells) every minute and forms millions of connections every second. Portions of the brain that are stimulated during the early years are encouraged to grow and develop. At the same time, neurons and the connections between brain cells that are less used can be pruned as the brain develops. These kinds of changes alter the basic male/female structure by setting up masculine and feminine patterns in the way the brain thinks and reacts to the world.