Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Men, Women Use Brain Differently

One Way Isn't Necessarily Better Than the Other, Small Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 2, 2005 -- Give a man and a woman the same task, and each may use their brain differently to do it.

That's the finding of researchers at Canada's University of Alberta.

Their study, published online in NeuroImage, focused on quick tests of mental skills -- not solving thorny problems from daily life.

Brain scans taken during the tests showed some different brain activity patterns in men and women. Those differences didn't always affect performance, the study shows.

Men's Brain, Women's Brain

The researchers included Emily Bell, a graduate student in psychiatry. Participants were 33 healthy people (23 men and 10 women).

In one test, participants tapped their index fingers as quickly as possible in a short amount of time. In another, they were shown a few numbers that they had to quickly recognize among other numbers.

A third test focused on verbal skills. Participants were shown a single letter. Then, they had to think of as many words as possible that start with that letter, working on deadline.

The fourth test checked spatial attention, using simple graphics on a computer screen.

Brainy Results

"The results jumped out at us," Bell says in a news release.

"Sometimes males and females would perform the same tasks and show different brain activation, and sometimes they would perform different tasks and show the same brain activation," she says.

Men performed better on the spatial attention test, but their brain activity patterns didn't differ from women in that test.

Bigger studies should be done, write Bell and colleagues, noting the small number of participants (and women, in particular). They add that men and women should be studied separately in brain imaging studies.

"We'd like to push forward in this area," Bell says. "It hasn't been seen yet how this information can be used to help patients, but more work in this area may lead to that."

'Large Potential Implications'

Bell's colleague, psychiatrist Peter Silverstone, MD, also commented in the news release.

"It is widely recognized that there are differences between males and females, but finding that different regions of the brain are activated in men and women in response to the same task has large potential implications for a variety of different clinical situations," Silverstone says.

Silverstone notes that men and women differ in some psychiatric conditions; depression is twice as common among women, and there are differences in symptoms in some mental illnesses.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix