How is a woman’s brain different from a man’s?

Men and women are equally smart, but each sex tends to use different parts of the brain to solve problems or achieve goals. Overall, the male brain has more volume, about 8 to 10 percent on average. That’s no surprise, since male bodies are larger overall. The size difference is not consistent across the entire brain; some parts of the female brain are larger than the corresponding parts of the male, and vice versa.

Other differences:
  • Women have more volume in the frontal and limbic cortices. This gives women an advantage in many of the higher cognitive functions including language, judgment, planning, impulse control, and conscientiousness, in addition to emotional response.
  • Women have more volume in the hippocampus -- one of the major memory centers.
  • Men have more volume in the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear and anger. This may be why men often jump to those emotions in a crisis.
  • Men have more volume in the parietal lobes, which are concerned with the perception of space. Women use language (and collaboration) to ask for directions. Men use their parietal lobes to find their own way.
  • Men tend to have more volume in the hypothalamus, which is concerned with sexual behavior. It’s no wonder that men have a greater interest in sex!
The percentage of gray matter vs. white matter is another key difference between male and female brains. Gray matter is composed brain cells. White matter is made up of brain cell tracks (think communication cables) that provide the connections between cells. A consistent finding is that females have a higher percentage of gray matter compared to males, while males have a higher percentage of white matter. But these figures are for the entire brain, and the matter -- gray or white -- is actually more complicated than it first appears. It turns out that in the parts of the brain that are related to intelligence, the proportions are reversed: Men have more gray matter (6.5 times the amount found in women). Women have more white matter (10 times the amount found in men). This means men are likely to do more localized processing of information, using only a few key areas to work through a problem or task, while women draw on many areas at the same time.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Women's language centers are bigger, and they perceive and use language using both left and right sides of the brain. Women have higher levels of activity all around, particularly in the frontal cortex, the executive center of the brain that anticipates consequences. Women also have a larger hippocampus, the area of the brain that is the center of memory and emotion.




Continue Learning about Functions of the Brain

The Mediterranean Diet and Your Brain
The Mediterranean Diet and Your Brain
The word Mediterranean is Latin for “middle of the Earth.” The Ancient Romans gave the sea this name because it was the center of the earth as they kn...
Read More
Does brain chemistry play a role in boredom?
Charles J. Sophy, MDCharles J. Sophy, MD
Scientists know that boredom-prone people may have naturally lower levels of dopamine than others wh...
More Answers
Does my brain continue to change when I'm an adult?
Kelly TraverKelly Traver
The brain is incredibly adaptable and fully capable of change and, in fact, changes throughout your ...
More Answers
What Happens If I Don't Move Around During the Day?
What Happens If I Don't Move Around During the Day?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.