In the battle of the sexes, it’s been said that men and women see things differently. Now, a new scientific study could back that view up.
Published in Biology of Sex Differences, the report finds that the part of the brain which processes vision works differently in men than in women.
While men have greater visual sensitivity to fine detail and rapidly-moving stimuli, women are better at discriminating between colors.
Scientists say there are high concentrations of androgen – male sex hormone receptors – in the cerebral cortex in both sexes, especially in the visual cortex, the part of the brain which processes images.
Androgen is also responsible for controlling the development of neurons within the visual cortex as the human embryo forms and develops. Since it is a male sex hormone receptor, men have 25 percent more of these neurons than females.
The researchers, from Brooklyn and Hunter Colleges of the City University of New York, compared the vision of men and women over the age of 16.
The scientists recruited staff and students from local high schools and colleges. All of the study volunteers had normal color vision and 20/20 vision, either naturally or when corrected by glasses or contact lenses.
First, the researchers had their volunteers describe colors shown to them from across the visual spectrum. They quickly found that men’s color vision shifted and that they required a slightly longer wavelength of light in order to experience the same color hue as women. They also found that the guys were less able to discriminate between colors.
Next, the researchers wanted to measure the contrast-sensitivity functions (CSF). They displayed an image of light and dark, horizontal or vertical, bars to volunteers who then chose which of the two images they saw. When the researchers alternated between the light and dark bars, the image appeared to flicker.
Researchers also varied the change speed of the images and how close the bars were to each other. They found that, when the images changed at a moderate rate of speed, the volunteers lost sensitivity for seeing the close together bars, but gained sensitivity when the bars were farther apart.
The researchers noticed that men, as compared to the women, could better resolve the more rapidly changing images of the bars that were closer together.
“As with other senses, such as hearing and the olfactory system, there are marked sex differences in vision between men and women,” says Israel Abramov, a professor who led the study.