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Why 'voices in the head' are male

Why 'voices in the head' are maleScientists at the University of Sheffield have revealed the differences in the way the male brain interprets male and female voices, explaining why people who hallucinate and hear false voices almost always hear a man.

In a study published online in NeuroImage, scientists describe the results of brain scans of 12 male subjects whilst they listened to male and female voices. It found startling differences in the way that the brain interprets the two sounds, with female voices causing activity in the auditory section of the brain and the male voice sparking activity in the `mind´s eye´ at the back of the brain.

Dr Michael Hunter, of Professor Peter Woodruff´s group in the Department of Psychiatry and Division of Genomic Medicine at the University of Sheffield, and co-author of the study explains, "Voices allow the brain to determine various factors about a person´s appearance, including their sex, size and age. It is much more complex than most people think and is an extremely important tool for determining someone´s identity without having to see them.

"The female voice is actually more complex than the male voice, due to differences in the size and shape of the vocal cords and larynx between women and men, and also due to women having greater natural `melody´ in their voices. This causes a more complex range of sound frequencies than in a male voice.”

When people hear imaginary voices, both men and women experiencing these auditory hallucinations are more likely to claim that it is a man they are hearing. This research suggests that when the brain makes up a voice, it finds it easier to recreate a convincing male voice rather than a female voice because it is less complicated.

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