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Specifically, they reported that men’s brains had more connectivity within each brain hemisphere, whereas women’s brains had more connectivity across the two hemispheres. Moreover, they stated or implied, in their paper and in statements to the press, that these findings help explain behavioral differences between the sexes, such as that women are intuitive thinkers and good at multi-tasking whereas men are good at sports and map-reading. […]

So, the wiring differences between the sexes aren’t that large. And we don’t really know their functional significance, if any. […]

[L]et’s set this new brain wiring study in the context of previous research. Verma and her team admit that a previous paper looking at the brain wiring of 439 participants failed to find significant differences between the sexes. What about studies on the corpus callosum – the thick bundle of fibres that connects the two brain hemispheres? If women really have more cross-talk across the brain, this is one place where you’d definitely expect them to have more connectivity. And yet a 2012 diffusion tensor paper found “a stronger inter-hemispheric connectivity between the frontal lobes in males than females”. Hmm. Another paper from 2006 found little difference in thickness of the callosum according to sex. Finally a meta-analysis from 2009: “The alleged sex-related corpus callosum size difference is a myth,” it says.

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A small sample of the more credulous media uptake:

“Male and female brains wired differently, scans reveal”, The Guardian 12/2/2013

“Striking differences in brain wiring between men and women”, EarthSky 12/3/2013
“Is Equal Opportunity Threatened By New Findings That Female And Male Brains Are Different?”, Forbes 12/3/2013

”The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are ‘better at map reading’ and why women are ‘better at remembering a conversation’”, The Independent 12/3/2013

”Sex and Brains: Vive la différence!”, The Economist 12/7/2013

“Differences in How Men and Women Think Are Hard-Wired”, WSJ 12/9/2013
“Brains of women, men are actually wired differently”, New Scientist 12/12/2013
“Gender differences are hard-wired”, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 12/15/2013

Some more thoughtful reactions:

“Study: The Brains of Men and Women Are Different… WIth A Few Major Caveats”, Forbes 12/8/2013
“Do Men And Women Have Different Brains?”, NPR 12/13/2013
“Time to ditch the ‘Venus and Mars’ cliche”, The New Zealand Herald 12/14/2013

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art { Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Sylvette David in Green Chair, 1954 }