The male brain: structures and differential functionality

The controversy over the particularities it represents the differentiation between the brains of the two sexes has been present in scientific research, both for the purpose of discerning whether there are discrepancies both in intellectual abilities and also in terms of emotional processing capacity.

Let’s take a look at what the anatomical structures are, along with the hormonal and neurotransmitter substances that work in a particular way and shape the development of the male brain throughout the life process.

    Hormones and neurotransmitters involved in male brain circuits

    These are the hormones and neurotransmitters involved in the functioning of the brain.

    1. Testosterone

    It’s the hormone responsible for the development of primary sexual characteristics, Such as maturation of male reproductive organs, and also and secondary: body hairiness, severity of tone of voice or muscle mass index.

    Testosterone plays a major role in dominating and aggressive behaviors, it also activates the circuits of sexual behavior, as well as those aimed at achieving goals and fighting potential competitors to maintain a higher hierarchical position.

    On another side, is responsible for activating the functionality of the sweat glands, Which are responsible for the emission of male odor (androstenedione).

    2. Vasopressin

    Besides its main antidiuretic function, this hormone is involved in the brain the repertoire of social behaviors, More specifically in the protection and defense of personal territory and behaviors focused on sexual mating.

    3. Müller’s inhibitory substance (SIM):

    The main function of this hormone is to act during the first months of pregnancy in order to eliminate from the future baby all the female physical characteristics, as well as to improve the maturation of those typically male.

    It plays an important role in the development of exploratory behavior and to take a direct interest in boys for all that involves movement and action.

    4. Oxytocin

    This substance can act as a hormone or as a neurotransmitter and is primarily associated with the establishment and regulation of social behaviors, emotional ties (Marital or paternal) and the promotion of aspects such as trust or generosity.

    It seems to be activated in particular by physical contact and therefore plays an antagonistic role in the aggressive activation caused by testosterone. She is also involved in developing the capacity for empathy and to generate personal safety or stress reduction circuits.

    5. Cortisol

    This hormonal substance is that which is secreted in response to stress, the function is geared towards combating the perception of potential threats both physiological and emotional in different personal areas.

    6. Dopamine

    This substance is the main neurotransmitter involved in the pursuit of pleasure, gratification, Motivation for fun and regulates the desire to achieve a certain goal.

    It is given the label of natural internal drug because it is secreted in high doses generating a powerful feeling of chemically addictive well-being in the face of a certain reward, similar to that which can be obtained after the use of drugs like cocaine. or amphetamines, for example.

    What areas make up the functioning of the male brain?

    Multiple scientific researches gathered in the work of Brizendine (2010) carried out over the last decades have made it possible to identify a series of particularly active brain structures in men’s brains.

    It seems that the high activity in these fields has been responsible for the formation and development of certain interests and goals which ultimately guide male behavior.

    1. Medial preoptic zone (POMA)

    This area is in charge of management of sexual activity and mating. It has been observed to represent an average size two and a half times larger in males than in females.

    2. Temporary parietal union (UPT)

    This area of ​​the brain regulates the capacity for cognitive empathy. this ability allows the individual to understand the other person’s situation analyze-cognitively in order to be able to generate an effective solution to deal with them. Studies indicate that this ability is more associated with males.

    In contrast to this, emotional empathy is about putting yourself in the other’s shoes by allowing yourself to emotionally identify with the other person’s feelings. This latter ability appears to be more developed in women.

    3. Preliminary dorsal nucleus (NPD)

    This is the area that regulates the area of ​​defense of the territory and personal (or family) status, articulating the anger response to possible threats and activating the emotion of fear in the exercise of this protective role.

    4. Tonsil

    It is the structure responsible for activating the alarm signal for possible threats or personal dangers, And is the main center of the treatment of fear.

    It directs emotional impulses and is activated in humans by testosterone, vasopressin and cortisol. Oxytocin, on the other hand, acts as an inhibitor of such emotional activation. Research suggests that they are taller in men than in women.

      5. Cranial cingulate zone (CCZ)

      This area plays a major role in the regulation of social behavior and the formation of emotions. is responsible for learning and remembering the social image that an individual conveys to others.

      Some studies link this area to readjusting the facial expressions experienced by men to minimize the facial gestures of their male emotional responses.

      6. Ventral tegmental zone (MTB)

      This set of structures located in the center of the brain occur the motivational capacity command center, Being the main producer of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

      Scientific findings have observed a higher level of activation in the male brain than in women.

      7. Periacuedal gray (GPA)

      This area is involved in the regulation of pleasure and involuntary pain. It is particularly active during sexual intercourse In man.

      8. Mirror Neural System (SNE)

      This neural network controls the capacity for emotional empathy. As mentioned above, its function is lower in men than in women.

      9. Anterior cingulate bark (CCA)

      This structure plays an important role in cognitive-emotional processing of potential threats, Acting as a center for analyzing potential emotional distress in humans.

      He acts in decision-making by valuing the possible consequences, the fear of punishment, worries in general, the fear reaction in relation to sexual behavior, mainly. It has been observed that its size is smaller in humans because testosterone conditions its functionality.

      10. Prefrontal correction (CPF)

      This structure is one of the most complex and recent in the human brain. In it, rational, logical and socially appropriate treatment is carried out.

      It is responsible for focusing attention on relevant aspects at all times, cognitively analyzing different decision-making options and inhibiting the most primitive and maladaptive impulses. Research has concluded that this area matures earlier and appears to be larger in women.

      Stages of hormonal and neurocognitive development of the male brain

      The exposed horn can now become a guide to get a clearer idea of ​​how the male brain works. Let us see how the hormone-anatomical operation takes shape in the various stages of human life.

      childhood

      a pronounced combination of secretion of the hormone SIM and testosterone in the first year of life improves the activation of brain circuits responsible for the exploratory behavior of the environment, and the focus of all kinds of stimuli involving muscle movements, above all more competitive than fun.

      Thereafter, testosterone levels gradually decrease until the age of 11.

      the puberty

      From the age of 11, the production of testosterone and vasopressin increases by 20%, while SIM decreases. This implies a increased activity of sexual conduct circuits and defense of personal territory.

      At the same time, the activation of the areas that promote visual sexual attraction takes place, significantly increasing the functionality of smell compared to the action of pheromones, as well as auditory perceptual sensitivity is altered.

      Greater activity was also observed in the circuits that regulate the sleep cycle, gradually decreasing the volume of daily hours of nightly rest. This means that the main interests of the child are the maintenance of the territory and the personal hierarchy, the social interaction and the fixation on the body of the sex to which he is attracted.

      In the latter is involved an increase in sexual fantasies and masturbation behaviors. With all of the above, episodes of contempt for authority become more frequent and opposition to external rules.

      Youth and early maturity

      With stable high testosterone levels, the high activity of brain circuits that regulate both mating behavior and interest in sex, as well as the protection of personal territory and hierarchy, is maintained.

      In heterosexual men, fixation is geared towards finding attractive female sex partners and monitoring potential male competitors. Regarding the question of social hierarchy, the main objectives at this stage are oriented towards consolidate certain aspects related to social status like a good professional place or a good salary.

      paternity

      During the couple’s gestational phase, it has been observed in Varone how the levels of testosterone decrease considerably and the volume of prolactin increases. This fact causes a decrease in the desire for the sexual drive and increases the activity of the circuits which help to establish the behaviors of care and patereno-filial bond.

      So the main goal is family protection, From which the man focuses on his role of economic and emotional support and to develop a greater sensitivity to the basic needs of the child.

      Medium maturity and andropause

      From the fifth decade of life, testosterone levels drop dramatically, although some fixation remains for the maintenance of personal territory and sexual interest, but with less impulsive activation.

      The most relevant goals for man are related to the education of children and the maintenance of an appropriate status at the professional level. In the so-called andropause (the equivalent of menopause in men) leads to a very considerable decrease in the secretion of hormones in general, although it has been observed that oxytocin levels increase during these vital stages .

      This leads the individual to focus on his own emotional well-being in the different personal and social spheres: health, career or family relationship (vis-à-vis his partner, as well as the children of grandchildren). Due to the increased activity of the latter hormone the activity of affectivity and sentimentality circuits increases, Decreased general aggression and competitiveness response.

      To conclude

      What has been exposed in the previous lines is intended to be an explanation of a number of scientific generalities which can serve as a guide to understand in more detail the types of biological brain predispositions associated with the male sex.

      However, this is not to claim that the influence of the environment and the contextual factors in which said individual thrives do not have a decisive influence on how to eventually externalize the behavior of each particular subject. Therefore, the information collected in the text should be viewed as a set of indicative and theoretical data, avoiding the conclusion that male behavior is mediated only by its biochemical or organic characteristics.

      Thus, one of the greatest consensuses that he has managed to achieve in the scientific community is to assume how the interaction between genetic or biological predispositions is combined with external factors or environmental to ultimately shape human behavior and functioning.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Brizendine, L. (2010) The Male Brain. RBA Books: Madrid.
      • Kolb, B. & Wishaw, IQ (2006) Human Neuropsychology (5th ed.) Pan American Medical Editorial: Buenos Aires.

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