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Difference between male and female brains, the male pill and why donated blood could spread mad cow disease

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Tuesday 3 December.

A new study may explain the ‘stereotypical’ behaviours of men and women, such as why men tended to be better at map reading and women have a better sense of intuition, reports the Independent.

US researchers think that physical differences in the way our brains are ‘hardwired’ could explain why in studies men and women consistently outperformed one another on certain mental tasks. In male brains, they said, the connections often ran from the front and back of the same side of the brains while in female brains they ran between the left and right side of the brain. The scientists believe the change occurs in adolescence and is related to sex hormons.

The prospect of an elusive male contraceptive pill is one step closer, writes the Guardian. In tests on mice, scientists were able to block proteins that release sperm from the testes during ejaculation although the rodents continued to mate normally. Their sperm, when taken from their testes, also created normal offspring, said researchers, indicating that the process may safely work on humans.

The House of Commons Science and Technology committee has called for safety checks on donor blood after it was revealed that one in 2,000 Britons may carry some form of the human version of ‘mad cow disease’, reports the BBC. There is no blood test to discover variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCVD), but the committee wants to investigate whether the threat of spreading the disease via donor blood could still be minimised through better practices.

Committee chairman Andrew Miller MP said: ‘Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is a terrible condition and we were extremely concerned to hear evidence that this incurable disease still poses a significant risk to public health.

‘Although the risk of developing the disease as a result of eating contaminated beef was long ago eliminated, it is possible that the infection could still be unwittingly spread through medical procedures.

‘We were told that this may happen through failure to properly clean medical instruments, or, even more worryingly, through widespread contamination of the blood and organ supply.

‘We want to explore whether the Government is taking this threat as seriously as it should be.’

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