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April 18th, 2008
01:01 PM ET

Science and a man's brain

By Val Willingham
Medical Producer

I have often wondered why my husband can remember how many touchdowns the Miami Dolphins scored in 1972, but will forget to bring home bread after work, even though I reminded him that very morning. Or why my father can recall the names of all his buddies during the campaign of Okinawa during World War II, but still doesn't know my mother likes daffodils and not carnations for her birthday. Scientists say it's all in the brain and men just can't help it, because gender plays a big part on what we recall and what we don't.

Studies over the years have found men and women don't think the same (no surprise there). Men's and women's brains process things differently. In a large study conducted a few years ago, published in Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, investigators found that males are more likely to remember stats, numbers and non-emotional stuff, whereas females recall things from their childhood, their first kiss, colors, seasons of the year. Men are good at directions and women are better at working on grocery lists. That certainly explains the bread issue.

And as we age, men are more likely to have problems with memory and thinking skills. New research out of this week's American Academy of Neurology annual meeting showed men tend to have mild cognitive impairment earlier in life then women. That means they begin to forget sooner and dementia starts to set in. The study which looked at 2,000 older men, found males were 1 1/2 times more likely to have memory problems than women, regardless of their education or marital status. And doctors say that's odd because data show that when it comes to the number of cases of dementia in this country; men and women are pretty equal. So physicians think although men forget sooner, they forget for a longer period of time, while the female memory has a faster decline.

Do you agree that men and women differ on what they remember? We'd like to hear from you!

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Mat Cantore

    No matter how political correct we try to be, men and women are simply not equal from a physiological standpoint. It's easy to see that quite quickly.

    Can we find women who exhibit traits more commonly found in men? Absolutely. Can we find men who exhibit traits more commonly found in women? Certainly. But we really need to separate "different" from "equal." Medicine is one area where we cannot deny this separation, and must accept men and women are, physiologically, and because of that, often psychologically, fundamentally different.

    April 18, 2008 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. A Boyd

    Although I do agree with the fact that men and women think differently, I want to point out that neither work better than the other. It amazes me how well-balanced the relationship can be when a couple realizes each strength and makes up for the weaknesses of the other by his own strength.

    April 18, 2008 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. B. W.

    Although men and women have physical differences, those differences do not necessary result in different ways of thinkings between the two genders. We must remember that physical differences between the genders are very subtle, especially the brain. What really caused the difference may be more social in its nature than biological.

    April 19, 2008 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jersey

    Thank you, Mat!! Finally, a guy who totally agrees with me. It appears the media and certain feminist groups are working hard to try to make it appear that, other than with reproduction, men and women are no different. Look at how many times research to physiology and neurology have proven their cases to be wrong.

    Now if only my female friends would agree with me...

    April 19, 2008 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. A. Oakley

    I think men and women are raised differently and thus place greater value on different things. Women are taught to value relationships and people and what people think of them. Men are taught to focus more on personal achievment and competition. I don't think it's any surprise that we remember the things that we place more value on. Women are judged by how they treat others, men are judged by well they do for themselves.

    April 21, 2008 at 08:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. S.S.M

    Men... I believe it's not really a different way the brain was made. It is selective memory. The way children have selective hearing. Men chose to remember what they want when they want. They also use it if they have to if it is necessary, but I do not believe men and women's brains are any different. I know many people who carry the same tasks as the same gender. There is no difference, it depends on the man, and what they want to remember, it's thier choice...remember?

    April 22, 2008 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Roger

    Yes, well I had a very good comment, but I can't seem to remember it! Seriously, I've always been a bit absent minded. Could the higher prevalence of ADD in men as well as the greater exposure to hazardous chemicals and injuries cause some of the difference? In addition, it might be that estrogen plays a protective effect and thus, when women go through menopause they would have the steep decline.

    April 22, 2008 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. GBooher

    It has long been assumed that males have a better capacity for understanding and remembering spacial and mathematical concepts.

    So.. why is it that men expect the woman to know where every single item in the house or garage is, even if the woman has never used, or even touched it!?

    April 22, 2008 at 22:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Brian from Fort Mill, S.C.

    I'd answer the question, but I forgot what the question was.

    April 24, 2008 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. David Duvall

    Social influences may play a big part in the differences between the male and female brain but, many studies have shown that cross-culturally there are still universally common differences - even in a matriarchal society. The debate as to nature vs. nurture will rage on for years. The important thing to remember is that there are differences and that they compliment each other.

    April 25, 2008 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Kate

    I like this article! However, as for how we process things, I think women AND men process things emotionally. I can recall most scores at championship games from years past and my husband can remember what flowers and perfume smells I like. It just comes down to what you think is important to know (and that can be stored in your short term memory or long term).

    May 8, 2008 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.