Many people believe there is such a thing as a ‘male brain’ and a ‘female brain’ … But when you look beyond the popularized studies – at collections of all the data – you often find that the differences are minimal.

So says Dr Lise Eliot, an associate professor of neuroscience, whose latest research helps to debunk the physical basis for the idea that men are from Mars, women from Venus.

Instead, it seems we’re all from Planet Earth. Dr Eliot led a meta-analysis of data from MRI scans which showed that there was no significant, proportional difference in the size of the male and female hippocampus – an area of the brain associated with spatial skills and connecting emotions to the senses.

While the media revels in clichés about women struggling to reverse park or men bottling up their feelings, it appears that the science behind such a simplistic view of gender is less than iron-clad. Stereotypes about gender might seem trivial, but they matter, because they shape a broader culture which consistently pays women less for the same work and leaves them disproportionately vulnerable to violence.

Leading a team for the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Dr Eliot examined findings from 76 published papers, involving more than 6,000 individuals. The results were published in the journal NeuroImage and summarized on

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Author: Ceri Parker is a commissioning editor for Forum Agenda

Image: A boy has his brain scanned for research purposes at Daxing Internet Addiction Treatment Center in Beijing. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon