Women Have More Active Brains Than Men

Women Have More Active Brains Than Men-Email800x400

Largest functional brain imaging study to date identifies specific brain differences between women and men, according to a new report in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

In the largest functional brain imaging study to date, the Amen Clinics (Newport Beach, CA) compared 46,034 brain SPECT imaging studies provided by nine clinics, quantifying differences between the brains of men and women. The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Lead author psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, MD, Medical Director, Amen Clinics, Inc., commented, “This is a very important study to help understand gender-based brain differences. The quantifiable differences we identified between men and women are important for understanding gender-based risk for brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Using functional neuroimaging tools, such as SPECT, is essential to developing precision medicine brain treatments in the future.”

The brains of women in the study were significantly more active in many more areas of the brain than men, especially in the prefrontal cortex, involved with focus and impulse control, and the limbic or emotional areas of the brain, involved with mood and anxiety. The visual and coordination centers of the brain were more active in men. Single photon emission computed tomography, or SPECT, can measure blood perfusion in the brain. Images acquired from subjects at rest or while performing various cognitive tasks will show different blood flow in specific brain regions.

Subjects included 119 healthy volunteers and 26,683 patients with a variety of psychiatric conditions such as brain trauma, bipolar disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia/psychotic disorders, and ADHD. A total of 128 brain regions were analyzed for subjects at baseline and while performing a concentration task.

Understanding these differences is important because brain disorders affect men and women differently. Women have significantly higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease, depression, which is itself is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and anxiety disorders, while men have higher rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct-related problems, and incarceration (by 1,400%).

The study findings of increased prefrontal cortex blood flow in women compared to men may explain why women tend to exhibit greater strengths in the areas of empathy, intuition, collaboration, self-control, and appropriate concern. The study also found increased blood flow in limbic areas of the brains of women, which may also partially explain why women are more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and eating disorders.


Caption: Side view of the brain summarizing blood flow results from tens of thousands of study subjects show increased blood flow in women compared to men, highlighted in the red colored areas of the brain: the cingulate gyrus and precuneus. Men in this image have higher blood flow in blue colored areas – the cerebellum.

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  1. This was an extremely interesting article. Thank you for sharing the findings of your study with us, Dr. Amen. Is there a link you could provide for those of us that would like to read more on this study?

    Comment by Pisaunt — August 7, 2017 @ 5:20 PM

  2. there was a hyperlink in the first sentence: http://www.j-alz.com/content/women-have-more-active-brains-men

    Comment by michael — August 9, 2017 @ 5:01 PM

  3. No surprise here but it’s nice to have scientific validation of one’s basic belief/knowledge base. Being a mom requires a very active brain – around the clock. Not better and maybe not worse; just a fact of life.

    As an aged, aspie girl, I can really appreciate your work outlining the differences between the brains of men and women.

    Comment by Julie — August 11, 2017 @ 9:42 AM

  4. Doctor you’ll never work at Google that’s for sure. Women and men are different – what a revelation!

    Comment by Northstar_702 — August 13, 2017 @ 6:58 PM

  5. I think the article is very interesting, but it could use a bit more explanation on how blood flow (and sugar uptake) correlate to level of brain function. While at your office i was fascinated to see that the brain of a PMS female looked exactly loke the brain of a person with ODD (Opositional Defiance Disorder) it truly helped me to understand my wife better, abd why we had so much conflict once a month. (She may also have been BPD)

    Comment by David — December 31, 2017 @ 5:01 AM

  6. I made the test and not surprisingly am type 2. being not very present in the PFC. I like to take risks and am prone to substance abuse and getting angry. Luckily I have been a straight edge vegan for 25 years which greatly balanced my nature. That said mindfulness and empathy are part of my calling. Thinking out of the box and being an Individualist are blessings of this type.
    I will still follow your tips to activate my PFC more and greatly benefited from Dr. Amen‘s lectures. Thank you

    Comment by Eugen — February 27, 2022 @ 1:47 PM

  7. Thank you for sharing your study. It would be interesting to study how much of these differences comes from cultural gender behavior expectations that are consciously or unconsciously layered on children from an early age. If we are aware, for example, that socializing girls to be responsible for everyone else’s emotional state and socializing boys to stuff their emotions with no healthy emotional outlet can potentially cause these negative health outcomes, can we change/avoid these outcomes? I was deliberately raised without many of the usual cultural pressures placed on other females and have through my whole life been told that I behave or speak as men do. I have extensive training in movement, speech, and communication, as well as a lot of work in early childhood development. So these are questions I continually look into and I appreciate your study. Obviously, I doubt these traits are inherent to males and females as much as they are almost universally socialized in our culture thereby shaping our brains as they develop and setting us on a more likely course for certain diseases and disorders.

    Comment by LJune — November 29, 2022 @ 11:00 AM

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