Brain Structures in Sciences and the Arts: MRI Study

In 1959, British physicist and novelist C.P. Snow delivered a lecture called The Two Cultures, an influential think piece in which he outlined how  many of the western world’s problems were the result of  an intellectual barrier that exists between scientific and literary thinkers. Snow wrote:

“A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe The Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: ‘ Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?’ 

A new Japanese brain study entitled Brain structures in the sciences and humanities has reveled not-so-surprising results: there are quantifiable structural differences in the brains of Sciences vs. Humanities scholars. The researchers looked at 312 science students (225 males and 87 females) and 179 humanities students (105 males and 74 females). Their findings, on average, showed that sciences students had more grey matter in the medial prefrontal cortex (the area associated with planning and decision making), while humanities students showed higher white matter density near the right hippocampus (the area associated with memory).

Said the researchers, “The present results may support the ideas that autistic traits and characteristics of the science students compared with the humanities students share certain characteristics from neuroimaging perspectives. This study improves our understanding of differences in faculty membership which is the link among cognition, biological factors, disorders, and education (academia).”