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Women drivers better than men? It’s all down to hormones…


Scientists at the University of Bradford have discovered that the hormone oestrogen could be responsible for giving women the advantage when performing certain tasks such as driving.

In a test carried out on volunteers aged between 18 and 35, results showed that a woman’s attention span and her ability to learn rules are far higher than a man’s.

This might explain why girls find it easier than boys to concentrate at school, and why women are more careful drivers.

Amarylis Fox, Dr Kay Marshall and Jo Neill, who performed the tests from the Cambridge Neuropychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), found that women have a greater ability to shift their attention from one stimulus to another making it easier for them to perform everyday actions like driving and reading.

It seems likely that oestrogen is responsible these differences in performance as the hormone has previously been shown to have beneficial effects on specific brain regions. Amarylis Fox, of Bradford School of Pharmacy, University of Bradford, said:

“This study demonstrates that tasks requiring mental flexibility favour women over men, an area previously not considered to elicit strong sex differences. Driving could be a good example of how this is applied to everyday life. Our study suggests that oestrogens may positively influence neuronal activity in the frontal lobes, the area of the brain stimulated by tasks of attention and rule learning, which could explain the female advantage when performing these tasks.”

The team’s next work is set to explore further the effect of hormones on cognitive performance:

· Cognitive performance during menstruation

· Cognitive performance during pregnancy

· Hormonal influence on cognition in mental illness

Jo Thurston | alfa
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