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Who Navigates More Effectively: Men or Women? (Part 2 of 2)

In the study referenced in the previous blog post (Who Navigates More Effectively: Men or Women? (Part 1 of 2)), medical doctor and PhD candidate, Carl Pintzka, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim used an MRI scanner to monitor brain activity when 18 men and 18 women used 3D goggles and a joystick to orient themselves in a large virtual maze. He found that men were more effective and, in a followup study, when women were given a single drop of the male hormone, testosterone, they become better navigators.

Aside from resolving front-seat skirmishes, understanding the parts of the brain used by men and women in navigation has implications for knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease. Losing one’s sense of direction is often one of the first symptoms of that disease. Dr. Pintzka hopes that by understanding how men and women navigate (using different parts of their brains and different strategies) researchers will be able to better understand Alzheimer’s disease and develop coping strategies. He notes, “Almost all brain-related diseases are different in men and women, either in the number of affected individuals or in severity. Therefore, something is likely protecting or harming people of one sex. Since we know that twice as many women as men are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, there might be something related to sex hormones that is harmful.”

Here’s the citation:
Carl W.S. Pintzka, Hallvard R. Evensmoen, Hanne Lehn, Asta K. Håberg. Changes in spatial cognition and brain activity after a single dose of testosterone in healthy women. Behavioural Brain Research, 2016; 298: 78 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2015.10.056

If you’re directionally challenged you need the award-winning book, Directional Sense: How to Find Your Way Around, by Janet R. Carpman and Myron A. Grant.


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