Thursday, January 23, 2014

Connectomes and Map Reading?

So do the connectome studies related to pathway connection differences in male versus female brains support stereotypes related to gender abilities for map reading and direction finding? My brain’s opinion is at least “not yet.” Some of observed differences likely relate to innate giftedness and some to environmental opportunities and experiences. For example, studies have shown that one’s sense of direction comes from grid cells in the human brain along with human hippocampal 'place cells,' which fire at single locations and assist with knowing where one is. In addition, practice (known as field independence) can develop functions within the brain and hone one’s skills. Studies on native Alaskans concluded that direction-finding abilities in that population were equal in adult males and females, ostensibly because both genders have equal opportunities for environmental exploration and practice. So based on a whole constellation of contributors, some male brains are great at reading maps and finding directions—and so are some female brains. Further research may indicate a difference in percentages of males and females for which this is true—maybe not.

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