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Researchers Discover Females are the "Hotter" Sex in Largest Brain Imaging Project in History

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NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., Jan. 29, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In the world's largest project analyzing brain function images, psychiatrist and brain-imaging specialist Daniel G. Amen, M.D. and his team compared over 46,000 brain SPECT scans, evaluating the differences between male and female brains. SPECT stands for single photon emission computed tomography. It is a nuclear medicine study that looks at blood flow and activity patterns in the brain. The large database of scans was obtained on a healthy and clinical psychiatric and neurological population at the Amen Clinics over the past 22 years.

The results of the project formed the basis for Dr. Amen's new book "Unleash the Power of the Female Brain," which comes out February 12 in retail stores nationwide and online, and is published by Harmony Books.

According to Dr. Amen, how gender impacts brain function and influences behavior, thinking, and emotion is of critical importance in understanding the differences between the sexes and why some disorders are disproportionately represented, such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and eating disorders in females and ADHD, autism, substance abuse, and antisocial personality disorder in males. Smaller studies have shown that healthy females, for the most part, have significantly higher rates of cerebral blood flow (CBF) than males. However, not all imaging studies observed these differences due to variation in methodology, with some studies showing no gender differences at rest, while others reported differences during rest or while performing cognitive tasks.

In this new analysis, compared to males, female brains have increases in CBF -- or "hotter", a clinical term referring to higher activity -- in 112 of 128 brain regions measured, especially in the areas of the prefrontal cortex and limbic parts of the brain; males had higher CBF in 9 areas measured, especially in a part of the brain associated with visual perception, form recognition, and object representation. The increased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex in females may, in part, explain why females tend to have a lower incidence of behavior disorders, such as ADHD and antisocial personality disorder. Since the prefrontal cortex is also involved in forethought and self-control, it may be one of the reasons why females have a lower incidence of substance abuse and incarcerations. The increased limbic perfusion may contribute to females being more vulnerable to mood disorders. Females also showed higher CBF in the amygdala, an area important in processing emotional information, and a region more active in females prone to anxiety and depression.

Dr. Amen suggests these differences may help us understand some of the unique strengths and vulnerabilities of the female brain and give us important clues on how to optimize it. Because of the increased activity, females often exhibit greater strengths in the areas of: empathy, intuition (or knowing something that is true without knowing exactly why), collaboration (which is why women often make great bosses), self-control (which is the reason why females go to jail 14 times less than males), and "appropriate" worry. In a large study, it was found that the "don't worry be happy" people died earlier from accidents or preventable illnesses. But this increased activity also makes females more vulnerable to: anxiety, depression (which they suffer from twice as much as men), insomnia, eating disorders, pain, and being unable to turn off their thoughts.

According to Dr. Amen, the project shows why women make great leaders, "Women like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mother Teresa, and Margaret Thatcher demonstrate what we learned in this study, and that the female brain has strengths in the areas of empathy, intuition, collaboration, self-control, and appropriate worry -- all traits of outstanding leaders."

Dr. Amen said he wrote the book to honor the women in his life and help them harness their unique strengths and overcome some of their vulnerabilities. He has 5 sisters, 3 daughters, 2 granddaughters, and 14 nieces.

Daniel G. Amen, M.D. is the founder of the Amen Clinics, Inc. (ACI). ACI has clinics in Newport Beach, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, New York City and Washington D.C. ACI specializes in accurate diagnoses and targeted treatment for a variety of mental conditions. Dr. Amen is the author of more than 30 books, including "Unleash the Power of the Female Brain."

CONTACT: Media Contact: David Jahr, djahr@amenclinics.com, (949) 266-3771-w, (949) 874-2667-c

Source:Amen Clinics, Inc.