A no-brainer?

December 06, 2013 - 4:54:57 am

Insightful research on brain science can help find out more about stress response and its effect on individuals and society. 

The right brain-left brain conundrum has foxed scientists for decades. Opinions about the brain, a mass of folds and virtually unending neural pathways, is intriguing as it to a large extent determines human behaviour. One doesn’t easily forget music as it is stored in the amygdala; the frontal region of the brain helps us pull back from what the human instinct may force us to do, but which may be socially undesirable — like taking someone’s life. Amid the mystery perpetrated by the golgi mass housed in a protective case called the skull, is a physiological truth waiting to be unravelled. And unravel it does, albeit occasionally.

A new study by the University of California has confirmed that the brains of men and women are wired differently. The research has set off a storm in the world of neuroscience. Biologists and evolutionary scientists have started tearing into the study that has also spawned popular discussion in the media. The basic difference, according to the study, between the sexes is that the male brain is largely wired from front to back with only a limited number of connections between the two lobes. On the other hand, the female brain is wired between the lobes, also called the hemispheres. This probably explains why men find it easier to perform single jobs like cycling or navigating while women are adept at multitasking. 

In 2001, cognitive experts Allan Pease and Barbara Pease wrote the book, Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps. It brought under focus the differences in the way men and women’s brains respond to various tasks. Generalisations apart, one cannot deny that most women would find it hard to figure out places on a map. And men not paying attention to what is being said; isn’t this a most galling grouse of an exasperated wife. 

The Peases’ aforesaid work was preceded by their book—Why men lie and women cry— which described significant differences between men and women. John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, written years ago, became a huge grosser after it was one of the first books to bring the contrasts into focus. 

The brain, it has to be emphasised, is a very complex organ. It might look simple in books that tend to show a sketch anatomy of arguably the most important part of the human body. The repudiation of the latest study is likely to say that the brain is not hard-wired. This would mean that the human brain can be rewired — discounting the theory that men and women differ due to the organ’s circuitry.  The upside of research in brain science has been the augmented ability of experts to understand the stress response. Stress is a big killer, and it may turn out to be the biggest one in a few decades. The understanding of the body’s capacity to endure stress and keep it away will in the distant and not-so-distant future determine how prescient neuroscience has been•
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