Turns Out Men and Women Do Process Emotions Similarly — Sort Of

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WE’VE HEARD OVER AND OVER AGAIN that men and women have brains that work in slightly different ways, but some new research on emotions claims that the sexes are more alike then we think.

According to research published in the journal NeuroImage, the amygdala is sexually dimorphic, and that it is not proportionally larger in males as is sometimes thought. That part of the brain is the area that deals with emotions and social behaviors. The concept that males might have a larger amygdala is an argument that’s been used to explain why men are frequently more aggressive. In this case, though, it doesn’t add up.

The study analyzed the MRIs of 58 men and women, and they didn’t find any major differences in the subjects’ brains. However, that’s also a pretty small sample size and doesn’t support other research that’s been done on the topic.

Other research has stated that male brains use seven times as much grey matter as female brains do, while female brains use ten times as much white matter as male brains do. The grey areas of the brain are the areas that process information and action-oriented responses, linked to increased situational focus and compartmentalizing. The white matter is used for networking different areas of the brain together, most associated with multitasking.

Women have been found to have more neural connections in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain where memories are stored. Studies have found that women are more likely to hold onto more sensorial information throughout the day then men do.

Women also have more blood flow in the brain, which might lead to an increase in revisiting emotional memories, as well as having verbal centers on both sides of the brain while men only have them on the left side. Women tend to more easily connect the two hemispheres of the brain, while men have stronger connections within each hemisphere.

The brains of men and women also use the same neurochemicals to get things done, but they have been shown to use different amounts of them to do it. Women tend to process more estrogen and oxytocin, while mean tend to process more testosterone, explaining in part the tendency for males to be more aggressive.

So while the amygdala has been proven to be the same size either way, there are still reasons why men and women might have some differences in emotion. As similar as we are, let’s be honest — we can also be pretty different. But still equal, which should never be forgotten in all this continued talk of differences between men and women.

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