Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Male and The Female Brain: from Back to Front and from Left to Right

I have been reading too many commentaries on The Female Brain (and also read an online chapter from the same today), so please excuse me if I too jump into the fray with my own discovery of a Dorsal visual stream bias in Males and a Ventral visual stream bias in Females. This is a novel departure from the usual left brain /right brain argument and deserves some attention!!

It has been often commented that the dorsal visual stream is specialized for location (and motion). Considering the combination of motion and location, one can easily see that if males process this stream more easily/predominantly then they are good at driving:-) and parking cars:-) vis-a-vis females who may not process data in this stream as preponderantly as in the Ventral stream.

Now, it has also been commented that the ventral stream is specialized for things like shape, color etc all of which enable us to identify the object. Thus, this stream is specialized for identifying objects. If women have more preponderant processing here, they would definitely be good at skills needing to treat objects like a whole- for ex relating to a person, recognizing faces etc.

I got thinking along these lines by reading a excellent commentary on Developing Intelligence regarding visual binding and you must read it before proceeding further.

As per the research mentioned there, it was experimentally found that object-location condition evoked longer looks from infants only when the objects were toys. It is evident that this ventral stream is a predominantly mean stream with focus on worldly objects and toys (I guess they had used cars as toys!)

It was also found that the object-identity condition evoked longer looks only when the objects were faces. Thus, the ventral stream it seems is tailor-made for females with their emphasis on interpersonal relationships and faces and persons as opposed to the more objective world of Men. Pardon me if reading too much Gilligan etc has gone to my head.

To me this seems as compelling evidence that not only do the female and male brains differ from left (hemisphere) to right, but also from front to back!

This post is written with a tongue-in-cheek but also takes forward some of the concepts like object and motion permanence that I mentioned earlier. It seems we need to distinguish now between object-identity permanence, object-location permanence, object-motion permanence and object-binding permanence!

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4 comments:

Paula said...

I would greatly appreciate your concept of the left handed brain theory as I am the only left handed in over 4 generations of my family. How does it happen??

Sandy G said...

Paula, I believe there is some correlation between exposure to testosterone in the womb during pregnencay and the left handedness of the child. (Testosterone is relased during pregnancy to masculanize the original unisex female brain of the feotus). I'll look up the relevant studies and post a detailed summary later as I am not really that familiar with this subject.

Thanks for your interest and reading though.

Sandy G said...

Hi Paula,
You may also find this study relating handedness to earning capacity interesting. As per it left-handers generally earn more than the right-handers. Hope that's the case with you too:-)

Paula said...

Hi Sandy, thank you for this I will be reading as I am interested. I was told oxygen starvation to the brain during birth was also a factor in lefthandedness.