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Language Processing in the Female Brain

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During the developing years of childhood, girls have statistical better language skill compared to boys. In studies done on school age children, girls excel over boys in seven factors of language: verbal facility, listening skills, auditory discrimination, attention span, story preference, personality style and activity levels, and goals and motivation.

Girls perform better in classes that focus on language, and are better at communication among their peers. In addition, this increased ability in language remains even into adulthood. However, how are girls more adept to language?

According to research done at the University of Sydney and the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, it is biological differences in the brain that result in language differences. Two areas in the cortical region are associated with language: the superior temporal gyrus and the inferior frontal gyrus. The superior temporal gyrus is part of the Wernicke's area, and contains the subdivisions planum temporale, Heschl gyrus and the anterior superior temporal gyrus. The inferior frontal gyrus has the Broca's area in the dominant hemisphere. The Wernicke's area and Broca's area are both crucial for language: damage to either area can result in severe impairment of spoken language.

The study looked at the brains of ten men and eleven women who did not have any neurological or neuropathological abnormalities. Samples were taken of the postmortem brains to compare the sizes of different brain structures. The results showed that women have larger language areas compared to men. Two areas were significantly larger: the superior temporal cortex and Broca's area. The female subjects had a 17.8 percent increase in size of the superior temporal cortex (P=0.04), and a 20.4 percent increase in the size Broca's area (P=0.05) compared to men.

Having larger language areas result in better language skills of women. As a result, women are more verbal, have a better vocabulary and have better reading abilities. In addition, women use both hemispheres of the brain when using language, unlike men who only use one hemisphere. One of the results of the hemisphere usage is that while men and women process single words the same, each gender interprets sentences differently.
Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch received her bachelor’s of science degree in neuroscience from Trinity College in Hartford, CT in May 2009. She is the Hartford Women's Health Examiner.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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