Sex Differences in Listening

By Jerilyn Watson

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

New research shows that men listen with only one side of their brains. The research also shows that women use both sides of their brains to listen. But scientists who produced the study did not prove women listen better. They say only that men and women listen differently.

Michael Phillips and Joseph Lurito are doctors at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. They examine the inside of patients' bodies with x-rays and other machines.

Their findings were presented at the yearly meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. The meeting took place in Chicago, Illinois.

Doctor Phillips and Doctor Lurito studied ten men and ten women. They were between the ages of twenty and thirty-five.

The doctors used a machine called a functional magnetic resonance imager for their study. It produces pictures of blood flow to parts of the brain. This is how the machine shows brain activity.

The men and women in the study were inside the imaging machine during the test. They listened to a story through special devices that covered their ears. At the same time the imaging machine measured their brain activity. The researchers watched images of blood flow to the peoples' brains. The doctors found differences in an area on both sides of the brain called the temporal lobe. Listening resulted in increased blood flow to the left side of the men's brains. But women showed almost equal activity in both temporal lobes. Scientists say the left side of the brain usually is linked to listening and speech. The right side is involved with creative activities like performing music and understanding relationships in space.

Doctor Lurito says it should not be a surprise that there are differences between men and women. He says the research suggests there is a difference in the way men and women process language. But he says it does not necessarily mean performance will be different. And he says the study was not meant to provide information about differences in understanding what was heard.

Experts say the study could help doctors understand the differences in the brains of men and women. It could help doctors treat patients who have had a stroke or other brain condition.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Jerilyn Watson.

Voice of America Special English