The Future

This post is based on content in Gender and Our Brains by Gina Rippon. She writes, “Early forms of data and data analysis were too crude to offer any insights into individual differences, but we have moved on from them. It is now possible to generate functional connectivity profiles, patterns of task- or rest-related synchronized activity in the brain which, it is claimed, are like a fingerprint, unique to each individual sufficiently distinct that they could be linked to their owners with up to ninety-nine percent accuracy.” This allows us and should compel us to look at brains at the individual level. Evidence about what can affect brains, and when, further indicates that we should do so.

Rippon writes, “We need to really understand the external factors that shape individual differences, with social variables such as level of engagement in social networks and self-esteem, and opportunity variables such as sport, hobbies or video game experience alongside more standard measures such as education and occupation. Each of these can alter the brain—sometimes independently of sex and sometimes very much entangled with it, but they will contribute to the almost unique mosaic that we now know characterize each and every brain.

Individual differences, such as sex, have been studied via statistical approaches. But each human is an individual and there are risks categorizing people via statistical approaches. Intelligence was one example, and sex differences is another. In fairness, statistical approaches were the only techniques available. But brain science is developing, and will further develop, approaches for studying individual differences on an individual basis rather than being lumped into a category.

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