Male and Female Brain Functioning: Left Brain vs Right Brain

Male and Female Brain Functioning: Left Brain vs Right Brain

Male and Female Brain Functioning: Left Brain and Right Brain Stephen Bavolek, Ph.D. Birth and Beyond Program Sacramento, California February, 2012 Brain Development Brain is made up of five major parts:

Brainstem: Fully developed at Birth. Brainstem is responsible for functions such as blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. The brainstem must be fully functional at birth for the baby to survive. Cerebellum Controls a persons automatic movements and balance: dancing, kicking a football and bringing a cup to your lips to drink are all coordinated by the cerebellum

If the cerebellum is damaged, the brain cannot coordinate movement. Midbrain Controls sleep, arousal responses, appetite and motor movements such as running and skipping. The midbrain is very important for moving.

Limbic System Controls emotions and long term memories. Can override rational thoughts and parts of the brain controlled by the brain stem. Part of the limbic system is involved in attaching emotions to memory.

Cortex Executive branch of the brain. Regulates decision making and makes judgments about incoming information. Different region of the cortex are responsible for processing our vision, touch, hearing, speech,

language development and problem solving. Allows us to plan for the future. Nature vs. Nurture Nature: Physical traits and genetic predispositions received upon conception. Nature also contains the elements that make us human beings. Nurture: the positive or negative influences the environment has on our genetic predispositions. Nurture can be positive or negative.

Brain Chemistry Neurotransmitters: chemicals that regulate the electrical signals between nerve cells and the brain. Humans are born with 27 billion brain cells.

Brain cells connect to form neurological networks which influence many aspects of the cortex. Brain Chemistry Hormones: released by the endocrine system of glands each of which secretes a type of hormone directly into the blood stream to regulate the body. Hormones regulate various human functions

including metabolism, growth and development, tissue function and mood. Common Neurotransmitters and Hormones Oxytocin crucial for maternal behavior; bonds lover to each other; strengthens attachments between parents and their children; is the anti-stress by reducing anxiety and allowing for relaxation, growth and healing. is necessary for empathy

Other Brain Chemicals Cortisol Hormone released by adrenal glands in response to stress; Can weaken the activity of the immune system; Increases blood pressure; shuts down the reproductive system. Additional Hormones and NTs Testosterone: sex hormone that fuels sexual desire in men and women; hormone

of reproduction; stimulates aggression Estrogen: sex hormone; increases bonding effects of oxytocin in women; hormone of reproduction Melatonin: controls sleep and wake cycles Serotonin: feel good chemical produced by midbrain and brainstem; natural antidepressant will rise and fall. Nervous Systems Brain acts in harmony with two nervous systems:

Sympathetic Parasympathetic Sympathetic Bodys accelerator; bodys warrior Develops before parasympathetic system which acts as the bodys brakes

Commands our survival system Mobilizes our body to flee or fight Uses cortisol, adrenaline and vasopressin to deliver its message Parasympathetic Acts as the bodys brakes; peacemaker

Dominant chemical is oxytocin The anti-stress system Is dominant in positive nurturing

Involved in self regulation Different of the Two Brains Right brain and left brain are connected by the corpus callosum Each side of the brain performs specific and common functions. The amount of blood flow to both sides of the brain regulates the cortical activity. Male, Female and Bridge Brains Males have more blood flow to the left side of the body hence the designation male brain.

Females have more blood flow to the right side of the brain increasing cortical activity hence the term female brain. Bridge brains: males and females who have increased blood flow to opposite cortical areas. Linear vs Holistic Left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner; processes from part to whole. Takes pieces lines them up and presents them in logical order. The Right brain processes from whole to parts.

Right brain sees the whole picture first not the details. Sequential vs Random Processing Dominant Left Brain people process in sequence; are list makers; complete tasks in order and checks them off; are good spellers; good at following directions; good at linear sequencing of math problems. Dominant Right Brain people are random; flit from one task to another; lose track of time being involved in another task; are late turning in projects and need to make

lists to keep life in order. Symbolic vs Concrete Processing Dominant Left brain people easily process symbols; enjoy mathematical and linguistic endeavors; memorize formulas and words. Dominant Right brain people want things to be concrete; want to feel and see the real object; may have trouble learning to read using phonics and prefer to see words in context and how a formula works. Logical vs Intuitive Processing

Dominant Left brain people process in a logical, sequential and linear fashion; use information piece by piece to solve problems; make logical conclusions. Dominant Right brain people use intuition; may solve a math problem but cant explain how; have gut feeling regarding the right answer. Verbal vs Nonverbal Processing Dominant Left brain people have little trouble expressing themself in words; are precise in giving directions using distance: go two miles, turn left on pine street, then in a half mile

Dominant Right brain people may know what they mean but have difficulty finding the right words; are much less precise in giving directions; use buildings and landmarks rather than distance: keep going straight until you reach this outdoor restaurant, then turn by the gas station, then Reality Based vs Fantasy Oriented Dominant Left brain people deal with the way things are in reality; adjust to changes in their environment; want to know the rules and follow them; will make up rules to follow if there arent any in place; know the consequences of their actions.

Dominant Right brain people deal with the way things could be; try to change the environment rather than adapt; generally bend the rules; are not aware that there is something wrong; are often creative. Male and Female Brain Functioning Researchers have long believed male and female brains are different.

Sex hormones begin to exert their influence 26 weeks after conception. Corpus callosum, the bridge of nerve tissues that connects the left and right brain, is thicker in girls than boys allowing for more multitasking in females. Females have language functioning in both sides of the brain. Males have a smaller corpus callosum resulting in more blood flow to the left side of the brain.

As a whole, girls out perform boys in language skills and fine motor skills until puberty. More boys identified with learning disabilities. More boys diagnosed with dyslexia than girls More boys diagnosed ADHD than girls (lower levels of oxytocin). Girls with ADHD show difficulty with inattention---boys with impulse control. Boys better in math and geometry (left side). These areas of the brain mature

about four years earlier in boys then girls. Language and fine motor skills mature six years earlier in girls then in boys. Men tend to have fight or flight response to stress; estrogen in females tends to enhance oxytocin (anti stress) in women which facilitates problem solving and compromise skills.

Women have a large thick Limbic system which allows them to be more in touch with their emotions and better able to express them with their increased use of words. Men have smaller tear ducts then women and cry less. Women express their pain more often and

are more likely to seek medical care. Men feel pain the right side of the amygdala which controls external functions; women feel pain on the left side of their amygdala which controls internal functions. Because of the way men and women use the two hemispheres of the brain differently, there are some disorders that men and women are suscepti

ble to in different ways . Men are more apt to have dyslexia or other language problems. If women have dyslexia, they are more likely to compensate for it. Women, on the other hand, are more susceptible to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

While handedness is not a disorder, these brain tendencies also explain why more men are lefthanded than are women. Men are also more likely to be diagnosed with autism, ADHD, and Tourettes Syndrome. Males have an action oriented empathy; females have a feelings oriented empathy.

Differences are the Norm Dominance in left and right brain functioning has created stereo-types which can breed discrimination. Most people are bridge brains who function equally well using both sides of the brain.

Nurture, the type of environment children grow up in, plays a crucial in reinforcing right and left brain dominance.

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