Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In which I blind you with neuroscience.

Men have 6.5 times more gray matter in their brains than women do. Women have 10 times more white matter. Gray matter creates processing centers in the brain, and white matter creates the connections between them. In other words, men have lots of areas for processing concrete data — like mathematical equations — and women have lots of connections that allow them to see and process patterns.
(Quote from this, found here.)

First, look at the premise. Men have 6.5 TIMES more gray matter in their brains than women do. Women have 10 TIMES more white matter. This is ludicrous at face value. This would indicate that men's brains are just wobbly with gray matter, and women's are bursting with white matter. In reality, we all have about the same amounts of gray:white matter. (If those had been percentage differences, it might be less ridiculous, but I have no idea if it would be at all accurate.)

If you can remember back to high school biology, you learned that neurons have nuclei and cell bodies like any other cell, and they also have long, skinny axons that project to other neurons' cell bodies and their dendrites.

"Gray matter" is just the term for areas in your nervous system that have lots of cell bodies.
"White matter" is just the term for areas in your nervous system that have lots of axons.

If men and women did have inversely differing amounts of gray/white matter, that just means that men have more neurons with fewer connections, while women have fewer neurons with more connections. By some marginal amount.

And to do any kind of processing, your nervous system uses both gray and white matter. Knowing that a person has more of one or the other cannot be used to predict anything about how they'll handle "concrete data" (mathematics = concrete?) or "patterns" (mathematics != patterns?).

I can point out all this, and I'm still an undergrad. N00bs.

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