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Love School Lesson #2

Welcome to Love School. I’m Dawn Maslar and this is the lesson #2 in the Science of Love.

Today I’m going to answer a puzzle that has perplexed biologist for decades.

Why does it take 120 million sperm to fertilize one egg? The answer is: because, none of them will stop and ask directions. Okay that’s a joke, but there is a grain of truth in every joke.

So, today we are going to take a look at some of the differences between men and women’s brains that create subtle behavioral variations.

Deep inside our brains is the structure called the hippocampus. Women tend to have a larger hippocampus. It’s involved in emotion and memory. The hippocampus acts as a memory filer, sending memories to appropriate areas for long-term storage and proper retrieval.

Since a woman’s hippocampus is larger, it’s the reason women tend to remember everything, especially if it’s emotionally charged. She remembers birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions, the day you accidentally called her by your ex’s name

Men on the other hand don’t remember all those things as well. (Especially the ex’s name thing.) The reason is not because his hippocampus is smaller. It’s because he uses his hippocampus differently.

Instead of remembering events or moments, he tends to use his hippocampus like an internal GPS system. In fact, researchers at the University College of London found specialized grid cells, where he has something like an internal radar system.

Men won’t stop and ask directions, because it doesn’t make any sense for him to ask directions. His hippocampus is busy at work and he just needs to drive around a little bit more while he gets his bearings and his internal GPS does some recalculating.

Researcher’s theories that the differences evolved during the hunter gather time. Men did most of the hunting, and once you hit an animal they can run. You then have to track them. You might chase them for hours. But once you find the animal you now have to get back home. They didn’t streets or maps, so he had to rely on his internal GPS to get back.

Women on the other hand were the gatherers. She had to remember where the plants were, which ones were good to pick and which ones were poisonous.

But, the hippocampus is not the only brain structure that’s different. There is the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area in the hypothalamus. Huh? It’s easier to call it but its nickname – the pursuit spot. Both men and women have a pursuit spot, but a man’s 2 to 2 1/2 times larger than a woman. The pursuit spot as the name implies prompts a man to go after a sexual relationship.

Not only is his hippocampus different, he has 25% more neurons in the visual region. This causes him to place more emphasis on sight. But, it’s not just any visual stimulation. He is better at picking out things that are moving. Biologists theorize that he has evolved to hunt moving target, while women have better color differentiation and have evolved to select ripe fruit.

These are just a few of the brain structures that are different in men and women. The point is that we really are different. We think, feel and function differently from each other and that difference effects the way we behave in our pursuit for love.

Next week, I’ll answer one of the questions I hear quite often. In this day and age is it finally okay for a woman to ask a man out? So make sure you come back next week so you don’t miss a thing.

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