The study, published in the
journal Intelligence, carried out a series of intelligence tests by applying a
method for automated segmentation of the hippocampus in 3D high-resolution
structural brain MRI scans.
Hippocampus is a part of the
limbic system in the brain responsible for storing, processing and retrieving
memories, and also experiencing emotions such as fear and anger.
For the study, Roberto Colom from
the University of Madrid and his colleagues, selected 104 healthy young adults
(59 women and 45 men in the age range from 18 to 27 years) who were asked to
complete 21 tasks measuring abstract, verbal, and spatial intelligence, along
with working memory, executive control, attention, and processing speed.
They found that hippocampal
structural differences were related to spatial intelligence, working memory,
and executive control, but were not related to verbal intelligence, attention,
and processing speed.
Larger the hippocampus and more
the neurons, means higher the intelligence, but only in men. On the other hand,
in women, a larger hippocampus, although smaller than men's, did not indicate
greater intelligence. Rather, the researchers reasoned, smaller the
hippocampus, the better.
They confirmed the earlier
studies that women are better at
(a kind of reasoning that evaluates general
propositions that are derived from specific examples) and also found that women are better at tracking a changing
. The men, in contrast, have better performance in intelligence
The study concluded: 'At this
structural level, females might show greater efficiency requiring less neural
material for achieving behavioral results on a par with males'. That is,
women's brains are able to complete complicated tasks with less energy and
fewer neurons as compared with men's brain.
Trevor Robbins, professor of
neuroscience at the University of Cambridge while commending the study
suggested further examination. The better efficiency of the female brain could
be because of 'more intense mobilization of neurons or more active signals
between them' and that they operate more efficiently in females due to the
small structure, he said.
He continued, 'the research indicates that a smaller
hippocampus size in women means better performance and the structure size of
the brain does not necessarily indicate the presence of any relationship with
the efficiency of performance'.