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Gina Rippon: ‘Brains reflect the lives they have lived, not just the sex of their owners’

Ginna Rippon during her conference at the UB.

Ginna Rippon during her conference at the UB.

The vice-rector for Equality and Social Action, Maite Vilalta, opened the cycle and the ICREA researcher from the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the UB Roberto Emparan, presented the figure of Gina Rippon.

The vice-rector for Equality and Social Action, Maite Vilalta, opened the cycle and the ICREA researcher from the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the UB Roberto Emparan, presented the figure of Gina Rippon.

27/02/2020

Institucional

Brains reflect the lives they have lived, not just the sex of their owners”. With this words the neuroscientist Gina Rippon concluded the first session of the cycle Debats UB: Feminisme(s), which took place on February 27.

 

The vice-rector for Equality and Social Action, Maite Vilalta, opened the cycle and welcomed the attendants, who were in the Aula Magna of the Historical Building. Afterwards, ICREA researcher from the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the UB Roberto Emparan, presented the figure of Gina Rippon, who she defined as “a great defendant of initiatives to overcome the underrepresentation of women in science”.  

Rippon, emeritus professor in Cognitive Neuroscience from the Aston Brain Centre (Aston University, United Kingdom), began the conference remembering the answers that have been done over history to the question of whether men and women’s brains are different. The neuroscientist pointed out that research does not always take place in a neutral context, and told how –in late 19th century and during the 20th century- the size of the brain and the skull ere studied in order to show that men had a better brain.  The idea they wanted to present is that “biology determines your place in the world”.

Then, Rippon talked about magnetic resonance techniques that were applied in the beginning of this century, and the development of neurosciences. Rippon was quite critical regarding “the neurotrash”. She denounced “there is a powerful wish to say male and female brains are different”. The researcher assigns to this will the long-time focus in minimal differences which may not be the most interesting issues for research, and that only data that confirm differences regarding sex are visible –instead of other studies that could not find these differences.   

Regarding this topic, Rippon provides a different view for the study of the human brain. She notes that brains “are plastic: flexible and malleable, they change according to the experiences we have”. Moreover, brains are permeable, they are affected by the context: “If you are given a task and you receive positive messages on your skills, you will make fewer mistakes”. In this line, if studies detect men are better in questions that are related to the space management, this would respond to the training and experiences they previously had.

Rippon, author of Gender and our Brains and The Gendered Brain, highlighted that people are the most social beings around and that avoiding social rejection and the lack of sense of belonging is very important for the human brain. After this, she told how brain mechanisms influence the assimilation of stereotypes of that which is male and female since we are kids. The author mentioned the lower presence of women in science and how this contributes to the rejection towards women among members of the scientific community.

Over the upcoming months, the cycle Debats UB: Feminisme(s) will focus on questions such as gender and the human brain, history and current state of feminist movements, the role of women in economics and development, women and power, and violence against women. This cycle responds to the will of reflecting and celebrating the plurality and diversity of women and feminist movements. Like in Debats UB: Catalunya i Espanya, which reaches now its second edition, the UB wants to become a meeting point for different sensitivities in our society and promote the debate to favour the mutual understanding and conflict resolution. At the same time, the UB wants to provide an academic view on social worries, giving analysis tools and promoting collective thinking.

 

 

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