Male and Female Brain Functioning: Left Brain vs Right Brain

Report
Stephen Bavolek, Ph.D.
Birth and Beyond Program
Sacramento, California
February, 2012
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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.
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Controls a person’s 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.
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Controls sleep, arousal responses, appetite
and motor movements such as running and
skipping.
The midbrain is very important for moving.
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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.
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Executive branch of the brain.
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Regulates decision making and makes
judgments about incoming information.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Oxytocin
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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
Cortisol
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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.
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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.
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Brain acts in harmony with two
nervous systems:
Sympathetic
Parasympathetic
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Body’s accelerator; body’s warrior
Develops before parasympathetic system which
acts as the body’s brakes
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Commands our survival system
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Mobilizes our body to flee or fight
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Uses cortisol, adrenaline and vasopressin to
deliver its message
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Acts as the body’s “brakes;” peacemaker
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Dominant chemical is oxytocin
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The anti-stress system
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Is dominant in positive nurturing
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Involved in self regulation
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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 can’t explain how;
have “gut” feeling regarding the right answer.
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…”
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 aren’t 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Because of the way men and women use the
two hemispheres of the brain differently,
there are some disorders that men and
women are susceptible 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.
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While handedness is not a disorder, these brain
tendencies also explain why more men are lefthanded than are women.
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Men are also more likely to be diagnosed with
autism, ADHD, and Tourette’s Syndrome.
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Males have an action oriented empathy; females
have a feelings oriented empathy.
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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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