Wednesday, May 4, 2011

104: The Self-Empowered Woman: The Brain

Dear Followers,

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who attended today's "Meet the Author" luncheon at the National Croquet Center. Sonia Cooper and Jill Kaplan organized an amazing event, and it was wonderful to have so many amazing women (and men) in one room. I loved the Q & A session, and it was a real treat to hear the celebrity guests discuss which chapter in The Self-Empowered Woman most closely affected them. Thank you everyone!

As most of you know, I frequently get blog ideas from the New York Times. But today's article was inspired by a supplement that appeared in an April issue of the Wall Street Journal (decades and decades ago I was a WSJ book reviewer).

In April, the Journal convened an Executive Task Force of scholastic, business and government leaders to dissect the forces that hold women back in the workplace and look for ways to create new employment opportunities for them.

One of the most intriguing discussions was Dr. Sandra Witelson (a neuroscientist from Ontario's McMaster University), who discussed the differences between male and female brains. For years, some researchers have felt that because male brains were "larger" it meant that men were "smarter" than women.

Twenty-five years ago, Witelson (who is known in her field as the researcher who was given the task of analyzing Albert Einstein's brain to discover what made it unique) discovered that six year old boys and girls used different parts of the brain when they read. A boy uses one side of the brain to read, while a girl has more "bilateral" brain involvement. Female brains appear to have more connective pathways between the right and left sides of the brain, which often gives them an advantage when it comes to verbal skills. The actually have more brain cells in the brain's language region.

And while the male brain has 6.5 times more "gray" matter, women actually have 10 times more "white" matter, which is the part that consists of connections between the neurons. What this means is that a woman's brain works faster than a man's.

A Stanford University study showed that women's brains trigger greater activity in more areas when they see photographs of traumatic events. And, three weeks after seeing the photos they remember far more details than the men do (which some experts feel is why women remember emotional hurts or hostile acts for so long.

Brain scans have shown that when a man's brain is at rest, about 70% of its electricity is shut down. But when a woman's brain is in the same resting state, female brains show 90% activity. What does this mean? Women are constantly receiving and processing information from their environment.

What this means for us is that now is the time to acknowledge and celebrate the differences in the way we think and process information. Thanks to Dr. Witelson, we now know that the size of a brain is not the only thing that matters!

Looking forward to your comments...

1 comment:

  1. How interesting- studies of the brain and how men's and women's brains function and respond to events differently.

    Congratulations on the luncheon honoring you and your book.

    You are doing valuable work with your writing and your blog- please keep up the good work- I so look forward to your postings.