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Battle of the Brain! Do Men or Women Have the Healthier Brain?


Whether men or women are smarter is open to plenty of debate. But one thing’s certain: Women’s brains really are different from men’s. And it’s not just size (yes, women’s brains are slightly smaller). Now that neurological research is being done on both men and women, we know that there are subtle differences in biochemistry and wiring—women have more connectivity in the limbic system, for example, which resonates with the “maternal instinct” and caring for everyone before themselves—but without big effects on behavior or intellect, says neuroscientist Lisa Mosconi, Ph.D., director of the Weill Cornell Medicine’s Women’s Brain Initiative. These biological differences in brains aren’t better or worse, but they do contribute to sex-specific health risks and vulnerabilities.

“We now see that, far more than breasts and tubes, women’s brains are under the greatest threat,” says Mosconi, author of The XX Brain: The Groundbreaking Science Empowering Women to Maximize Cognitive Health and Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. Turns out, women are twice as likely as men to have anxiety and depression, three times more likely to have autoimmune disorders and three times more likely to have headaches and migraines.

Here’s Mosconi’s heads-up on what else we know about the brain health of men and women.

How Brains Age

At puberty, both males and females have an explosion of hormonal power in their brains: more androgens (like testosterone) in men and more estrogens (as well as progesterone, oxytocin and prolactin) in women. Male aging is pretty linear, with testosterone slowly and steadily declining into the 80s.

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