The brains of men and women
Louann Brizendine's feminist ideals were forged in the 1970s, so the UCSF neuropsychiatrist is aware that some parts of her new book, "The Female Brain," sound politically incorrect.
Such as the part about how a financially independent woman may talk about finding a soul mate, but when she meets a prospective mate her brain is subconsciously sizing up his portfolio. Or the part describing the withdrawal pains moms feel when they return to work and can no longer cop a hormonal high from breast-feeding their babies.
Women have come a long way toward equality over the past 50 years, but the Yale-trained Brizendine, 53, says her research indicates that human brains are still wired for Stone Age necessities.
Male and female brains are different in architecture and chemical composition, asserts Brizendine. The sooner women -- and those who love them -- accept and appreciate how those neurological differences shape female behavior, the better we can all get along.
Start with why women prefer to talk about their feelings, while men prefer to meditate on sex.
"Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road," she writes. Men, however, "have O'Hare Airport as a hub for processing thoughts about sex, where women have the airfield nearby that lands small and private planes."
Untangling the brain's biological instincts from the influences of everyday life has been the driving passion of Brizendine's life -- and forms the core of her book. "The Female Brain" weaves together more than 1,000 scientific studies from the fields of genetics, molecular neuroscience, fetal and pediatric endocrinology, and neurohormonal development. It is also significantly based on her own clinical work at the Women's and Teen Girls' Mood and Hormone Clinic, which she founded at UCSF 12 years ago. It is the only psychiatric facility in the country with such a comprehensive focus.
A man's brain may be bigger overall, she writes, but the main hub for emotion and memory formation is larger in a woman's brain, as is the wiring for language and "observing emotion in others." Also, a woman's "neurological reality" is much more deeply affected by hormonal surges that fluctuate throughout her life.
Brizendine uses those differences to explain everything from why teenage girls feverishly swap text messages during class, to why women fake orgasms to why menopausal women leave their husbands.
So the next time parents scold their daughters for excessive text messaging, consider Brizendine's neurological explanation:
"Connecting through talking activates the pleasure centers in a girl's brain. We're not talking about a small amount of pleasure. This is huge. It's a major dopamine and oxytocin rush, which is the biggest, fattest neurological reward you can get outside of an orgasm."
Excerpt: 'The Female Brain'
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