Saturday, April 22, 2006

Men And Women Wired To Feel Emotions Differently

Special Note: Post updated and re-posted March 10th, 2007, to remove superseded links and substitute alternative links. Updates posted in green.

Dr. John Gray may be wrong. Men and women are from the same planet, but have different emotional wiring, according to an article originally published in the Irish Examiner, but now no longer available. Click HERE for an equivalent article published by the University of California at Irvine (UCI). Dr. Cahill pictured at left courtesy of UCI.

Synopsis: An almond-shaped cluster of neurons reponsible for processing experiences such as fear and aggression hook up to different brain functions in men and women. In men, the cluster hooks up to brain regions responding to external stimulii, such as the visual cortex and the motor coordination function. In women, the cluster communicates with brain regions responding to internal stimulii. These areas tune into and control women's hormones, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and respiration. The differences may be driven by the fact that women must deal with gender-unique internal stressors such as childbirth that men don't experience.

Researchers Dr. Larry Cahill and Dr. Lisa Kirkpatrick (link to Dr. Kirkpatrick from the Majority Rights Blog)scanned the brains of 36 healthy men and 36 healthy women to determine the findings. Cahill already knew that the sees use different sides of their brains to process and store long-term memories, base upon his earlier work. The study focused on activity in the amygdala, a cluster of neurons found on both sides of the brain and involved for both sexes in hormone and other involuntary functions, as well as emotions and perceptions. He also has shown that a drug called Propranolol can block memory differently in men and women. The scans also showed that men’s and women’s amygdalas are polar opposites in terms of connections with other parts of the brain. In men, the right amygdala is more active and shows more connections with other brain regions. In women, the same is true of the left amygdala. Scientists still have to find out if one’s sex also affects the wiring of other regions of the brain. It could be that while men and women have basically the same hardware, it’s the software instructions and how they are put to use that makes the sexes seem different. The findings will be published in NeuroImage (this link also no longer available).

Some women may object to these findings because of feminist influence. These women may be concerned that such findings may validate male chauvinism. The problem is not that these differences exist, but that they've been valuated in favor of men for most of our 6,000 years of recorded human history. Feminism is not a productive counter to male chauvinism, because it's divisive, corrosive, blaming men for all the sins of the world, past, present, and future. Men who believe that male emotions are superior to female emotions are chauvinistic; women who believe that men should react emotionally the same as women are simply trying to transform men into women.

Implications: This study further enshrines the idea that emotionally, men think with their right brain while women think with their left brain. Perhaps this explains why more men are Republicans and more women Democrats (JOKE). However, the long-term implications are even more fascinating, as it could open up research into other emotional disabilities. It could certainly accelerate research on Alzheimer's Disease.

For example, take homosexuality. Is it possible that in male homosexuals, it's the left amygdala that's more active? And, if so, was it that way at birth, or is there a post-birth triggering mechanism? It's quite possible that a male homosexual is simply a man with a female-wired brain. If this is the case, then further research may unlock a procedure to correct this "wiring" problem. Such a procedure would open up a host of ethical questions. Should taking the "cure" be voluntary or mandatory? While homosexuality is, in my opinion, an emotional disability, most homosexuals confine their activity to consenting adults. Consequently, any "cure" would have to be strictly voluntary. But for the gay-rights movement to block research into "reparative" therapy is to sentence countless people to a lifetime of homosexuality without giving them the hope or option of making a real choice at some point in the future. They act in the same spirit as Galileo's inquisitors, and they may be delaying subsequent research into other emotional disabilities, such as pedophilia.

However, while homosexuality is generally limited to consenting adults, this is not the case with pedophilia. Therefore, the urgency to find a "cure" for pedophilia is greater. It would seem as pedophilia is more complicated than merely a right brain-left brain reversal. But if we find that homosexuality is simply a "wiring-reversal" in the brain, follow-up research might identify another "wiring" problem which causes pedophilia. Imagine the countless children who could be spared that horrifying experience if we found a cure. Imagine the countless perpretrators who could be safely released to society if we found a cure. And in this case, the ethics are easier: Either you take the cure, or we lock you away from society for the rest of your life.

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