The brains of women from countries with high levels of gender discrimination are more likely to have thinner regions, according to a recent study.
The study has provided evidence that gender-based discrimination has not only psychological effects, but also physical implications. The research showed that discrimination based on gender during the formative years can cause thinning of certain brain regions in females.
The findings of the groundbreaking study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The fact is well established that gender discrimination has an impact on brain function. Some studies have shown that gender bias can affect a girl’s academic performance, but this first-of-its-kind study assesses whether it results in physical impairments too.
Notably, an earlier study outlined how different forms of stigma (discrimination) affect the brain development of children. The study found that children from Black and Latino backgrounds, who lived in states with higher levels of structural stigma, had smaller hippocampal volumes compared to those living in states with lower levels of structural stigma. This effect, however, was not observed among non-stigmatized groups.
To get to the bottom of things, researchers analyzed patient data for 7,876 people from 29 countries who had undergone MRI scans. Factors such as their social standing, and their academic records were also taken into account.
Turns out, the more the discrimination index, the thinner the brain regions.
The phenomenon was found to be concentrated in the right hemisphere–the right medial orbitofrontal cortex, the left lateral occipital cortex, and the right caudal anterior cingulate. These are the parts that are firsts to be affected by any adverse childhood experiences, according to Medical Express.
“The results show that country-level gender inequality is related to the average structural brain differences between women and men in cortical thickness. The effect seen was a global one, significant in the cortical thickness of the right hemisphere,” the researchers wrote in the study.
According to the researchers, there may be a self-fulfilling prophecy taking place in certain countries, where leaders believe women are lagging behind in intelligence than men, which results in discriminatory social practices against women.
To break the cycle, the researchers recommend that leaders actively reject these stereotypes.
Published by Medicaldaily.com