In Brief

April 10, 2008

Gender

Girls', boys' brains function differently in language tasks

Educators long have observed that girls are superior to boys in language abilities, such as reading, and now researchers at Northwestern University's Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory in Evanston, Ill., are reporting that they have discovered why.

The sexes' brains perform differently while doing language tasks, and there may be implications in the way boys and girls are taught in the classroom as well as the way men and women communicate with each other.

"Language areas of the brain are more active in girls," said Doug Burman, a neuroscientist in the lab. "But even more surprisingly, boys and girls rely on different areas of the brain for processing language accurately."

Burman, James R. Booth and Tali Bitan, now of the University of Haifa, reported their results in the March online issue of the journal Neuropsychologia.

Brain imager Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine told ScienceNOW Daily News that the research "fit nicely" with his studies on sex differences in the brain areas used in intelligence tests. "This paper is part of a growing awareness that not all brains work the same way," he said.

Chicago Tribune

Sexual health

Endurance isn't key to enjoyment, therapists say

A survey of sex therapists concluded that the optimal amount of time for sexual intercourse was 3 to 13 minutes.

The findings, to be published in the May issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, strike at the notion that endurance is the key to a great sex life. The time does not count foreplay, and the therapists did rate sexual intercourse that lasts from one to two minutes as "too short."

Researcher Eric Corty said he hoped to ease the minds of those who believe that "more of something good is better, and if you really want to satisfy your partner, you should last forever."

The questions were not gender-specific, said Corty. But he said previous research has shown that both men and women want foreplay and sexual intercourse to last longer.

Dr. Irwin Goldstein, editor of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, cited a four-week study of 1,500 couples in 2005 that found the median time for sexual intercourse was 7.3 minutes. (Women were armed with stopwatches.)

Associated Press

Obesity

Normal-weight people may carry too much fat

Have a "normal" body-mass index? You might still be too fat.

"The definition of obesity is having excess fat," says Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and lead author of a study on what researchers are calling "normal weight obesity." It was presented last week at the American College of Cardiology's annual science session in Chicago. "For years we've been using BMI to diagnose obesity, but the first question we had was `Is it possible to be normal weight but have excess fat?'"

Researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that among 2,127 men and women of normal weight and BMIs between 18.5 and 24.9, almost half had excess fat -- 20 percent of total body composition for men and 30 percent for women. (Although acceptable levels of body fat vary, most experts agree these numbers are high.) Compared with those without excess fat, they also were 2 1/2 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome.

Los Angeles Times

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