Columns

2017.06.01 Old: The shrinking male brain

Let’s talk about brains and their sad decline. After all, it’s been 20 years since this column last appeared.

By DAVID GREEN

I’m sure everyone knows the male brain is bigger than the female brain. It doesn’t take a sprocket scientist to tell you that. But I suppose it does take cranial researchers to tell you that in the end it’s the men who become the flea brains.

Everyone’s brain shrinks over the course of a lifetime, but we don’t all shrink equally. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania discovered that the male of the species loses brain cells at a faster rate than the female. I’ve advanced well into the “rapid drop” era of my life. As early as age 40, men begin to lose brain tissue three times faster than women in some areas of the brain.

The sad conclusion is that while men start out with bigger brains than women, they end up smaller. When your wife says, “You’re acting like you have half a brain,” she might not be that far off. It might be more accurate to say “You’re acting like you’ve lost 20 percent of your brain tissue.”

But you’ve got enough grey matter left to come back with a snappy retort such as, “Talk about brain dead! You’ve dropped a few billion cells yourself.”

Some British scientists have found a brain dilemma that only women can appreciate: the shrinking brain of the pregnant woman.

Researchers don’t believe that pregnant women are actually losing brain cells any faster; rather, the cells they have are shrinking. They say it could explain why some women complain of absent-mindedness during late pregnancy.

It’s only a temporary condition. Everything’s back to normal within six months, although some women say they left part of their brains on the delivery table. OK, so the brain size is back to normal, but life in general is never the same.

According to the U of P scientists, all this brain shrinkage isn’t supposed to affect memory or intelligence but women might look at male behavior patterns and wonder if that’s really the case. They’ll probably start with Monday Night Football.

If this shrinkage problem isn’t bad enough, there’s new research from the University of Cambridge that says kids get their smarts from their mother. Let me qualify that: Mice kids get their intelligence from mouse moms.

The mother’s genes seem to play the dominant role in the development of the “thinking” or “executive” section of the brain. The father only contributes to the emotional side of things.

Forget the Nobel prize-winner type. Just look for an easy-going friendly sort, even if he still has trouble with double-digit multiplication. And now you know your job, men. Search for the brainy woman  if you want brainy kids. Or more accurately, if you want brainy mice. The genomic imprinting experiments haven’t been done with humans.

Returning to the shrinking brain once more, a report from Shock Media takes this thing a little further but it reads a little more like something from the supermarket checkout lane.

“Research at an undisclosed American university….” “A doctor who asked to remain anonymous….” The mystery doctor says the brain dries out like an old grapefruit. In the end it resembles something like an old raisin about the size of a softball. A man loses twice as much brain as women so he tends to die earlier and regress to an infantile stage needing constant attention not from mom but from his wife.

Confusion. Mental fog. Grumpy and moody. Just plain crazy.

I’ve probably dropped a good 10 percent of my brain so far and I’m aiming to reach the 35 percent mark before retirement. That’s my only hope for attaining the Old Codger Editor status enjoyed by so many aging newspaper owners across America.