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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Sexes handle emotions differently
Scientists have come up with a theory to explain why men and women seem to deal with emotion in different ways.

They believe that the sexes use different networks in their brains to remember emotional events.

This may explain why women are more likely to be emotional and to remember fraught occasions.

Researchers from Stanford University in California, US, used scan technology to measure the brain activity of 12 men and 12 women who were shown a range of images.

These varied from neutral images such as fire hydrants, to highly disturbing images of mutilated bodies designed to trigger an emotional response.

The brain scans also revealed that exposure to emotive images stimulated more areas in the women's brains than they did in the men.

In the women, nine areas of the brain known to play a role in emotion and memory showed higher activity, compared with just two areas for men.

Memory test

Three weeks after the scan, the volunteers were given a surprise memory test.

The women were found to out-perform their male counterparts.

The researchers believe their findings show that the mental process that women use to deal with emotions is different to and more effective than that used by men.

It is already known that men have fewer connections between the left and right hemispheres of their brain.

As emotion is dealt with by the right side of the brain, and speech by the left side, this could explain why men find it more difficult to talk about their emotions.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they say: "Women recall more emotional autobiographical events than men in timed tests, produce memories more quickly or with greater emotional intensity in response to cues, and report more vivid memories than their spouses for events related to their first date, last vacation, and a recent argument."

Dr Loucas Kartsounis, an expert in brain and behaviour from Old Church Hospital, Romford, Essex, UK, said emotion was a complex concept, which was difficult to study.

He said: "The way one responds is also dependent on one's upbringing, and how one is exposed to different kinds of stimuli."

See also:

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