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Thank you for visiting nature. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer. An artificially coloured 3D magnetic resonance imaging scan of a human brain.
Haier et al. NeuroImage 25—; I woke one morning in to see an especially bad extrapolation of this study on the Early Showa programme on US television network CBS. The history of sex-difference research is rife with innumeracy, misinterpretation, publication bias, weak statistical power, inadequate controls and worse.
Rippon, a leading voice against the bad neuroscience of sex differences, uncovers so many examples in this ambitious book that she uses a whack-a-mole metaphor to evoke the eternal cycle. And it has exploded in the past three decades, since MRI research ed the fray. Yet, as The Gendered Brain reveals, conclusive findings about sex-linked brain differences have failed to materialize. Shaywitz et al. Nature— and I. Sommer et al. Brain Res. Brain size increases with body size, and certain features, such as the ratio of grey to white matter or the cross-sectional area of a nerve tract called the corpus callosum, scale slightly non-linearly with brain size.
But these are differences in degree, not kind. As Rippon notes, they are not seen when we compare small-headed men to large-headed women, and have no relationship to differences in hobbies or take-home pay. Sadly, the moles keep surfacing. Ingalhalikar et al. Natl Acad. USA—; She builds her case in four loosely defined parts, from the sordid history of sex-difference research through modern brain-imaging methods, the emergence of social cognitive neuroscience and the surprisingly weak evidence for brain sex differences in newborns. Part 4 brings us into the twenty-first century, although not to any happy ending.
Bian et al. And all of this factors into the brain-building cycle of differential expectations, self-confidence and risk-taking that drives boys and girls down different trajectories of career and success. For a volume about debunking brain difference, why narrow it to women?
Young and E. Balaban Nature; Whatever the subtitle, the book accomplishes its goal of debunking the concept of a gendered brain. The brain is no more gendered than the liver or kidneys or heart. Towards the end, Rippon flirts with the implications of this finding for the growing of people transitioning or living between current binary gender. Correction 06 March : An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that non-linear scaling of some brain features can be seen in comparisons of small-headed men and large-headed women.
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