Gender Differences in Cortical Activity
The Economist this week issued an article posing possible reasons for gender differences in cognitive abilities: stemming from the requirement of hunting and gathering skills to social development. They state
“One possible explanation is that in the time of hunting and gathering skills were required: men spent time away from camp, tracking animals and fighting off intruders, and women needed social skills to bring up children….The latest research suggests living standards and access to education probably bear more responsibility for cognitive disparity between men and women than genes, nursery colours or the ability to catch a ball.” The Economist
Hold a minute! Don’t stop throwing and catching balls just yet.
We know that cognitive abilities can be altered and increased through physical movement, repetition training and in particular the development, strengthening and refinement of fine and gross motor skills.
Cortical activity has a direct relationship to experiences in motor control.
Muscular expertise, coordination, control of movements, speed, grace, strength, dexterity: all results of positive psychomotor learning which should start early in a child’s life, have direct impact on white and grey matter structure.
Typically it is this psychomotor learning that differs between boys and girls.
Daniela Weber’s study [sited in article] reported findings of increased RDI positively impacting cognitive abilities via factors such as social improvements in living conditions and educational opportunities. This we can understand and would expect to see in a 30+ age group. This would be particular true for women who in modern developed societies are carrying out more tasks traditionally assigned to, or expected of, the male, and undertaking drastic role changes within their lifetime.
However, we wouldn’t necessarily expect to see these results amongst children and young adults.
What we have seen in our studies is due to the high level of device usage or parents or teachers simply not understanding what is necessary, children’s bodies are not developing the way they should. This leads to coordination deficient conditions, weak muscular structure, lack of support to joints through growth, energetic weakness leading to emotional and cognitive issues, lack of connectivity and under performing motor skills. The outcomes of all this vary on a spectrum involving cognitive, social, physical and emotional issues and quite simply a difficulty to ‘connect’.
The cerebellum receives input from the spinal chord, which in itself must be understood in child development as an extension of the brain. Therefore the attention given to it in development exercising is as important as academic learning: the core of the body, the spinal chord, the nervous system, the energetic strength especially in the area of the lower section of the spinal chord and the neural connections between rapid and accurate arm and leg movements are vital.
Ragini Verma’s study showed clear differences in the dominant connections in the cerebrum between men and women. We would be interested to see that study extended further.
As Verma’s findings state: only a few gender differences were observed in children younger than 13. This is exactly what we would expect. The first 12 years of a child’s life are the prime developmental years during which programming of learning has its greatest impact. Adopt gender-specific tasks, learning and activities during these years and by 13yrs -adulthood you will start to notice the differences.
In our studies we have seen neglect or ignorance of effective psychomotor learning and body-mind connectivity across wealth categories, in which case we cannot say, like Weber, that increased wealth and positive living conditions impacts these factors in this younger age-group.
What we do know is that when we train for repetitive, rapid, complex motor movements such as we have in long periods (decades) of karate training, that cognitive abilities increase and alter.
We also know from our child development work that positive psychomotor learning, strengthening of the muscular & energetics system around the spinal chord as well as positive motor experience over time increases cognitive, social and emotional functioning in children.
One could argue these exercises we are applying which initially stem from ancient fighting arts are more associated with hunting and gathering in men and ball throwing and that in a gender specific study we would expect to see better results in boys. However, we also know that when women train in this way with dedication over a long period of time they experience differences in cognitive functioning: taking on some of the functioning traditionally associated with male cortical activity, as well as experiencing an increase in their abilities compared to that of their female peers who did not undertake the training at all.
What Weber’s study offers us to question is: what activities can we apply to our developmental programming to increase memory, numeracy and category fluency?
What Verma’s study offers us to question is: if we were to train both and male and female in exactly the same way during the developmental years, by the time they reach 20 yrs would Verma’s images look different to what they do today?
Whether we want to train children identically or not is for another discussion, but what we do know is the first 12 years are the most important, positive psychomotor learning is vital for both genders and when you programme the body you programme the brain.
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