Even though the scientific community knows that compared to men; women tend to find it easier to multitask and switch between the work they’re handling, identification of the parts of the brain that behave differently in both sexes has been a bit unclear. However, according to HSE Neurolinguistics Laboratory researchers, additional areas of the brain are mobilized and more energy is required by men to multitask compared to women.
The results from the current research showed that certain areas of the brain are activated more strongly in men than women when they switch their attention between tasks. The dorsolateral prefrontal areas of a man’s brain shows more activity compared to women when attention is shifted. Other areas in the brain are also activated in men while they aren’t in women, such as the insula and the supplementary motor areas. These differences in brain activity are normal for younger women and men aged 20 to 45. The current paper was published in Human Physiology.
When human beings switch their attention between tasks certain parts of the brain need to be activated. This is regardless of an individual’s age and sex. These activated brain locations are specifically the inferior parietal lobes, dorsolateral prefrontal areas and the inferior occipital gyrus. The results from the study show that less brain power is used by women, compared to men, when they switch tasks.
According to Kuptsova, the lead researcher of the paper, the activation of supplementary brain areas is seen when individuals are faced with tasks that they consider to be complex. The current findings suggest that women consider shifting their attention easier than men and thus, don’t need to activate extra brain areas.
The study included a total of 140 volunteers, with 69 being men and 71 being women. All of them were aged between 20 and 65. The participants were asked to perform a set of tasks. During one of the experiments a functional MRI was used. The volunteers were given a task in which they had to switch their attention to sort objects according to number and shape. The order was pseudo-random. Neuropsychological tests such as the D-KEFS Trail Making Test and the Wechsler Memory Scale test were also conducted during the study.
The results showed that the differences occurring in brain activation due to switching between tasks was only observed in volunteers who happened to be younger than 45 years of age. Participants that were 50 years of age and older showed no gender related differences when it came to brain activation as well as the speed with which they switched between tasks. Additional brain resources were mobilized in both men and women who were aged 55 and 45 respectively.
While the current difference may be subtle during everyday life, they can play an integral role when individuals face critical situations where frequent attention switching is required. Currently, the reasons behind these differences are pure speculation. Evolutionary scientists have suggested that women are good at multitasking because it allowed them to better take care of children and other domestic tasks. However, further research is required to better understand the difference in gender-based brain activation.