“People preferred not to look at those differences.”
Mental health is still often misdiagnosed. Some disorders are typically seen as masculine or feminine, which means that depression in men, for example, is less likely to be detected. What is the significance of gender differences in neuroscience? What role do these differences play in the study of mental health?
“For a long time, the picture has been that men and women are exactly equal and that we can only examine men as a kind of frame of reference. We can also use the results for women,” says Buss. “Moreover, scientists did not want to contribute to stereotypes and sexism in society. People preferred not to look at these differences.”
According to Bose, another reason the research is focusing more on men is because women fluctuate so much because of their endocrine systems. “While men’s endocrine systems change, too,” says Bose. “If we look at testosterone, among other things in men, we even see that it fluctuates on a daily level.”
Boss sees this focus on men in the research as “a strange situation with dire consequences. Cardiovascular disease is an important example of this. For example, women show different heart attack symptoms than men.”
However, measurable differences between men and women can also be misleading. Bose: “The most important brain difference we see between men and women is size. A man’s brain is on average 10 percent larger than a woman’s. The false assumption made here is that men are therefore smarter and we can’t prove that.”
“It’s not always easy to divide the effects of biological differences between men and women into two groups,” says neuroscientist and author Lara Wieringa. “For example, men differ more in brain structure and body size than women do. In addition, both sexes have to deal with fluctuating hormonal differences, which can vary by day, month, or years.”
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