The Amen Clinics compared 46,034 brain SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) imaging studies acquired from 9 clinics for a largest functional brain imaging study, thereby quantifying the differences between the brains of men and women. You can find the study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Daniel G Amen, MD, founder of Amen Clinics, Inc., says “This study is very important to help understand the brain differences in men and women. The quantifiable differences identified between men and women in the study is important for understanding the risk based on gender for disorders of brain such as Alzheimer’s disease. In order to develop precision medicine brain treatments in the future, using functional neuro-imaging tools like the SPECT are very important.”
Quantifying differences between brains of men and women
Many areas of women’s brains as per the study were significantly more active than the brains of men. Especially the limbic or emotional areas of the brain, related to mood and anxiety, the area in the prefrontal cortex related to focus and impulse control are more active in women. However in men, the visual and coordination centers of the brain were more active. The brain images of subjects while performing various cognitive tasks or at rest shows different blood flow in particular regions of the brain.
The study subjects include 119 healthy volunteers and 26,683 patients having various psychiatric conditions. These conditions range from mood disorders, bipolar disorders, brain trauma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia. At rest and while performing a task that requires concentration, a total of 128 brain regions of the subjects were analyzed.
Having a clear understanding of the differences is essential as the disorders of the brain affect men and women in different ways. In case of Alzheimer’s disease and depression, women show significantly higher rates which in itself is a risk factor of these disorders. On the other hand men have higher rates of conduct related problems, ADHD and incarceration.
According to the study there was increase in the prefrontal blood flow in women than in men. This can explain why women tend to show greater strengths in areas of intuition, empathy, self-control, collaboration and appropriate concern. There was also increase in the blood flow in the limbic areas of women’s brains. This may explain partially why women are more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, eating disorders and insomnia.