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Cognition and correlation

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Mar. 11th, 2008 | 08:15 am

Burman and Booth (2008) searched for brain activation differences by sex that could explain the persistent performance differences on language tasks between boys and girls. Burman and Booth's fMRI study scanned 62 children (50% male) during rhyming and spelling tasks presented in written or verbal form. They concluded that boys and girls were using different brain areas to process these types of tasks, and "greater activation of language areas in girls." Boys, on the other hand, showed greater activation of the sensory modality in which the stimuli were presented: visual or auditory. In an article about the study in Science (2008), Burman suggests that these results support single-sex education in middle school.

I have to say I'm impressed by the size of their sample: 31 subjects per group seems a lot bigger than most of the fMRI studies we've discussed. I am concerned, however, about the group analyses, which cut these groups down into much smaller samples of 5-11 subjects of a particular age and sex, and about the fact that data were excluded for 8-20 subjects for each task. I still have a lot of questions about how much we can deduce from "greater activation." I think that correlations with behavioral results are a step in the right direction. However, in terms of the behavioral results in this study, Burman and Booth report that there was no sex/task correlation on accuracy, only on reaction time. Girls answered more quickly but no more accurately.

One question not addressed in the article is the theory that girls respond more to auditory stimuli while boys are more visual. This theory does not seem to be supported by these results.

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Comments {1}

The Difference Blog by Dan4th

note to self, typical fMRI sample sizes?

from: differenceblog
date: Mar. 11th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)

Video games: 11M, 11F http://differenceblog.livejournal.com/110225.html
Stress reactions: 16M, 16F http://differenceblog.livejournal.com/98851.html
Emotional memories: 12M, 12F http://differenceblog.livejournal.com/58861.html
also 12M, 11F (same article)
Erotic Picture Viewing: 22M, 22F http://differenceblog.livejournal.com/48354.html

So, 31 is pretty big, and 11 is pretty normal... hm.

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