Scientists with the National Institutes of Health are piecing together the results from the MRIs of brains of 500 healthy young boys and girls to try to answer some key questions about the development of young brains. Already, they've made some interesting findings:


In most tests, boys and girls showed very similar abilities. They were equally competent at math, raising the possibility that any gap in math skills in later years is a product of culture, not biology.


Girls were somewhat better at memorizing and reciting lists of words, and they were slightly better at tasks that required finger dexterity and quick thinking. Boys had the upper hand with spatial tasks, such as arranging blocks to form patterns.


The brain is flexible. Children build connections between brain cells, find fresh obsessions, and hone new skills as they read, listen, watch, and learn.


A girl who plays exclusively with dolls this month might move on to construction toys and blocks next month. Even if she never develops a fascination with toy cars, she may very well enjoy her bike and learn how to fix a chain (and later tune a carburettor). A boy may never pour imaginary tea for a doll, but he can learn how to take care of a pet (and later raise a baby of his own).