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The world would be a better place if us men possessed a few female brain cells

Nick Harding and his wife Stephanie
Nick Harding and his wife Stephanie - Heathcliff O'Malley

They’ve finally done it. Scientists in America have solved one of humanity’s biggest riddles. Men’s brains and women’s brains are different.

Imagine the arguments this revelation will now nip in the bud.

“Sorry I forgot our anniversary darling. My male brain hasn’t got the emotional bandwidth to equate dates with sentiment.”

“You’ll have to park the car dear. My female brain hasn’t got the necessary neurons to correctly assess spatial challenges.”

In the end we needed artificial intelligence to solve the puzzle. As reported in this paper yesterday, researchers at Stanford Medicine taught an algorithm to identify differences between male and female scans. Eventually the bot got so good at working out which scan was male, and which was female, it could tell the difference with a 90 per cent success rate.

It also found that the “hotspots” that most determined whether a brain was male or female occurred in three parts of the brain, these being the limbic system, which helps regulate emotion; the default mode network, which is involved in introspection and personal memories; and the striatum, which governs decision-making and movement.

Nature or nurture?

Despite all the hoo-ha the study has sparked, the results fall short of answering the important questions, such as do our sex-based cognitive differences occur because of nature or nurture? And can I, a man, ever learn to multitask, or understand why we need so many cushions in the house?

Why do brains have to be binary anyway? Personally, I know I’ve got some female wiring and I’m OK with that. I’ve probably got more than most men, having spent the best part of a decade in my early career working in the largely female environment of women’s magazines. Like a male fish swimming in an oestrogen-polluted river, I developed female traits. While I didn’t develop breast tissue, I did gain the ability to advise female members of my family on the best clothes for their body shapes. I learned how to empathise and emote. I can’t say for sure, but I even suspect my hormones synced with the other women in the office because there were certainly times of the month when I felt emotional and fragile. Although in hindsight these may have coincided with the release of monthly sales figures.

Changing behaviours

And although that was over 20 years ago, some of those behaviours have stuck, suggesting that thanks to neuroplasticity, my brain got a little bit more ladylike.

For example, I struggle to reverse park. I usually swap places with my wife if it is a particularly tight spot, as she is much better at it than me. Indeed, I suspect she has quite a male brain because she’s a Scouser and they’re quite tough and scary (although she is rubbish at loading a dishwasher, so who knows).

I obsess over my eyebrows. I have them plucked and tinted every five weeks and I get a back wax before I go on holiday. I love to gossip. But then all men do. You only have to walk into the changing room at the gym to hear the cattiness.

Emotionally coshed

I regularly find myself being emotionally coshed on the sofa in front of the television trying to hide my tears from my wife. DIY SOS, the final episode of The Crown, Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, they are all minefields. I even get weepy watching the stars of Gogglebox weep when they watch emotional TV shows. Third-party tears. Weeping once removed. My wife and I are currently working our way through One Day on Netflix and I’ve been warned the ending is heartbreaking. I am genuinely concerned about how I’ll react. It took me a week to get over the final scene of La La Land. I kept watching it at my desk, tears on my cheeks, willing for a happier ending. I don’t want to relive that emotional rollercoaster again.

But so what? Big boys do cry. Barack Obama, for example. Leader of the free world who cried freely. Tough adventurer Bear Grylls? He enjoys a good sob too, as he told this newspaper recently.

The truth is the world would be a much better place if men possessed a few female brain cells. We’d all talk a bit more, we’d understand each other better, be kinder to each other and we’d probably dress better.

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