Researchers Discover Gender Differences in the Neurological Processing of Motion

A new study led by researchers at the University of Washington has found that there is a significant difference in how fast men and women see motion. The results were discovered by accident during a study where researchers were investigating the differences in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Due to the fact that boys are four times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ASD, researchers compared results by gender in the control group of subjects that had not been diagnosed with ASD.

The study found that both males and females are very quick at reporting which direction black and white bars move on a screen. On average, respondents required only a tenth of second or less to respond, but women took between 25 to 75 percent longer to respond than men.

However, the researchers say that faster motion perception does necessarily mean better visual processing. Faster motion processing has been shown in people with autism spectrum disorder, depression, and in older people. This may due to the brain’s poor ability to “put the brakes” on neural activity. The researchers believe that this process may be weaker in males than females, allowing males to process visual motion faster than females.

Scott Murray, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington and the lead author of the study, stated that “there is very little evidence for sex differences in low-level visual processing, especially differences as large as those we found in our study.” In further studies, the researchers hope to discover the underlying differences in the brain that may explain this discrepancy in visual motion processing between males and females.

The full study, “Sex Differences in Visual Motion Processing,” was published in Current Biology. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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