There’s a Link Between the Size of Your Belly and the Size of Your Brain

Belly fat has long been thought to be particularly bad for your heart, but now, a new study adds more evidence to the idea that it may also be bad for your brain.

The study, from the United Kingdom, found that people who were obese and had a high waist-to-hip ratio (a measure of belly fat) had slightly lower brain volumes, on average, compared with people who were a healthy weight. Specifically, belly fat was linked with lower volumes of gray matter, the brain tissue that contains nerve cells.

“Our research looked at a large group of people and found obesity, specifically around the middle, may be linked with brain shrinkage,” lead study author Mark Hamer, a professor at Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences in Leicestershire, England, said in a statement.

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Everything You Believe Is Wrong: There Is No Such Thing As A Male Or Female Brain

Forget all those glowing brain scans, here’s the real science behind the differences between men and women.

If I see someone crying, I cry–without fail. It isn’t purposeful, it’s just how my brain reacts. My husband, by his own admission, is like the Tin Man, just without the quest for greater emotional expression.

This difference between us, which can lead to frustration from me and eye rolls from him, is a common refrain among men and women. It is just one in a long litany of supposed differences between (straight) men and women. Also included, women are nurturing, talkative, and spatially inept, whereas men are assertive, logical, and mechanical, and on and on.

Hundreds of years ago, people blamed these differences on women’s reproductive organs (somehow blood in a uterus was supposed to make it difficult to reason). Now with advances in neuroscience, the answers seem more sophisticated: Men and women are different because we have different brains. This is propagated by clickbait articles and news segments that show the brightly lit images of brain scans explaining away our frustrating gender differences with “scientific evidence.” Pink brains and blue brains are easy to sell in a world where we have been told for generations that men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

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Study Finds Grey Matter Density Increases During Adolescence

Philadelphia, PA (Scicasts) — For years, the common narrative in human developmental neuroimaging has been that grey matter in the brain – the tissue found in regions of the brain responsible for muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control — declines in adolescence, a finding derived mainly from studies of grey matter volume and cortical thickness (the thickness of the outer layers of brain that contain grey matter).

Since it has been well-established that larger brain volume is associated with better cognitive performance, it was puzzling that cognitive performance shows a dramatic improvement from childhood to young adulthood at the same time that brain volume and cortical thickness decline.

A new study published by Penn Medicine researchers this month and featured on the cover of the Journal of Neuroscience may help resolve this puzzle, revealing that while volume indeed decreases from childhood to young adulthood, grey matter density actually increases. Their findings also show that while females have lower brain volume, proportionate to their smaller size, they have higher grey matter density than males, which could explain why their cognitive performance is comparable despite having lower brain volume. Thus, while adolescents lose brain volume, and females have lower brain volume than males, this is compensated for by increased density of grey matter.

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