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Grey matter

I'VE always been quite good on a map.

I flinch at the sight of wedding dresses. Make-up seems a little bit of a hassle and fashion can go and entertain itself elsewhere. I'd rather read the Spectator than Heat. My dishes lie undone for days and I don't own an iron. Or a vacuum cleaner. I'm a really good driver.

I've always assumed this means I'm a bit of a tomboy but, actually, it turns out I've probably been given the wrong brain.

New research from the University of Pennsylvania seems to support just about every gender cliche you've ever heard. Apart from the housework. Let's be honest, no-one likes housework.

Scientists have been peeking at brains - they're an odd bunch, scientists - and have found that women are from Venus and men are from ... oh, hang on, that's not it. No, they've found women are good at multi-tasking and men are better at single, immediate task - such as map reading, driving and learning to swim.

Women, however, are more adept at spinning several plates at once. Not literally, figuratively. Literally spinning plates would be a task for the male brain. Figuratively spinning is one for the ladies. Lady brains are also good at recognising faces, probably so we can tell apart who we've been gossiping with and who we've been gossiping about. If it all sounds very familiar that's probably because it is.

We've long been told that men are better at spatial tasks involving muscle control while women trump men at verbal tasks using memory and intuition.

Using MRI scans, scientists looked at the brains of 949 young men and women to test this theory. Women's brains, they found, connect from left to right while men's connect back to front. There's a joke in there somewhere.

The back-to-front bits control motor skills whereas side-to-side deals with intuitive thinking. These things are, according to Dr Ragini Verma and her team at the university, "hard-wired". Apparently, the differences between young male and female brains are slight but become more pronounced as we get older. Maybe this means we all start off the same and learn to multi-task when we're told we're naturally good at multi-tasking or learn to map read when we're told we're naturally adept at reading maps. Maybe I've been listening to the wrong instructions. But it seems more likely that I'm in possession of the wrong brain. Now I just need to find the poor bloke who ended up with mine.

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