On the basis of these data, Hyde suggested some policy recommendations: (1) a spatial learning curriculum should be instituted in primary and secondary schools, (2) colleges of engineering should have a spatial skills training program for entering students, (3) four years of math and four years of science should be required in high school or at least for university admission, (4) the mathematics curriculum in many states needs far more emphasis on real problem solving, and (5) teachers and high school guidance counselors need to be educated about the findings on gender similarities in mathematics performance, or teachers will believe the stereotypes about girls’ mathematics inferiority that pervade our culture and those expectations will be conveyed to the students.
National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health
Jay Giedd began by noting his focus on the adolescent brain. In child psychiatry nearly everything has different prevalences, ages of onset, and symptomatology between boys and girls and nearly every disorder is more common in boys. His studies use MRI, magnetic resonance imaging, which because it does not require radiation can be used in children to perform longitudinal studies.
To the MRI machine, the brain is boxes of gray or white measuring about 1 cubic millimeter. Within each of these boxes are millions of neurons and trillions of synaptic connections. Using much finer resolution microscopic techniques, one can see synapses and connections, but MRI currently cannot do that. MRI pictures and images can be quite colorful, but interpretations are necessarily speculative.
What we call the gray matter consists mostly of the neuronal cell bodies, where the nucleus and the DNA are housed; the antenna-like dendrites reaching for connections to other brain cells; and the terminal branches of the axons, the location of the synapses, and the connections to other brain cells. The white matter is myelin, the insulation material wrapped around the axon that speeds communication between the brain cells.
Giedd and his colleagues performed longitudinal MRI scans of 2,000 subjects. They found that white matter volume increased at least through the fourth decade in women and through the third in men (Figure 1-2). At no time during development did white matter volume decrease.
The white matter has been of interest in the study of sexual brain-structure differences, or sexual dimorphism, because one of the first reports of a brain difference not related to reproduction concerned the corpus callosum, the white