Na­ture vs nur­ture

Are men’s and women’s brains wired dif­fer­ently? They cer­tainly are, Dr Michael Mosley tells ANNA BRAIN

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - NEWS -

SUF­FER­ING from man flu? Imag­ine a fu­ture where man medicine is the cure.

Dr Michael Mosley says that day may come.

In Is Your Brain Male or Fe­male? Mosley teams up with Pro­fes­sor Alice Roberts to crack the na­ture vs nur­ture de­bate.

“I’m push­ing the line that the dif­fer­ences [be­tween our brains] are sig­nif­i­cant, and Alice thinks it’s all a bit over­stated,” Mosley says.

“The thing I found very in­ter­est­ing was re­search where they looked at fe­male and male brains and found that the wiring was dif­fer­ent.

“There were also ar­eas around pain re­search, and the fact that men and women can ex­pe­ri­ence pain dif­fer­ently.

“One of the sci­en­tists was say­ing he could imag­ine a time when we would have dif­fer­ent med­i­ca­tions, dif­fer­ent painkillers for men and women. Pink ones for girls, blue for boys, be­cause the way that we re­spond to pain ap­pears to be dif­fer­ent.”

Of course “pink for girls and blue for boys” is a so­cial con­struct, the kind of thing that Mosley and Roberts at­tempt to keep sep­a­rate from the in­flu­ence of genes and hor­mones.

They con­duct sev­eral ex­per­i­ments, testing male and fe­male skillsets.

“For me, one of the most amaz­ing things was when I go off to re­peat an ex­per­i­ment with macaque mon­keys, we re­lease toys and see what pref­er­ence the mon­keys show,” Mosley says.

“The males did tend to go for the trucks, and it was very funny watch­ing them squab­ble about it. One of them would grab the truck and run off with it up a tree and wave it at the oth­ers.

“The sci­en­tist who’d done the orig­i­nal re­search was say­ing you can un­der­stand fe­male macaque mon­keys might go for the dolls. The fe­males tend to look af­ter the young. But no one could un­der­stand why the males should be so at­tracted to the trucks. She thinks it’s some­thing to do with mo­tion.”

For ev­ery rule there are plenty of ex­cep­tions and Mosley says his own daugh­ter is one.

“My daugh­ter hap­pens to be very good at maths,” he says. “But I’m sad to say she doesn’t en­joy science, we haven’t worked out why.

“Alice makes the very im­por­tant point that it’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant women should not be put off do­ing science.

“We need more women in science, par­tic­u­larly in the ar­eas such as physics and com­puter science.

“And she makes the re­ally valid point that if we have ex­pec­ta­tions that be­cause you’re a girl you can’t do maths, clearly that will in­flu­ence you.” IS YOUR BRAIN MALE OR FE­MALE? MON­DAY, 7.30PM, SBS1

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