Every brain begins as a female brain. It only becomes male eight weeks after conception, when excess testosterone shrinks the communications center, reduces the hearing cortex, and makes the part of the brain that processes sex twice as large.
Louann Brizendine, M.D. is a pioneering neuropsychiatrist who brings together the latest findings to show how the unique structure of the female brain determines how women think, what they value, how they communicate, and whom they'll love. Brizendine reveals the neurological explanations behind why
- A woman remembers fights that a man insists never happened
- A teen girl is so obsessed with her looks and talking on the phone
- Thoughts about sex enter a woman's brain once every couple of days but enter a man's brain about once every minute
- A woman knows what people are feeling, while a man can't spot an emotion unless somebody cries or threatens bodily harm
- A woman over 50 is more likely to initiate divorce than a man
Women will come away from this book knowing that they have a lean, mean communicating machine. Men will develop a serious case of brain envy.
From the Hardcover edition.
This comprehensive new look at the hormonal roller coaster that rules women's lives down to the cellular level, "a user's guide to new research about the female brain and the neurobehavioral systems that make us women," offers a trove of information, as well as some stunning insights. Though referenced like a work of research, Brizedine's writing style is fully accessible. Brizendine provides a fascinating look at the life cycle of the female brain from birth ("baby girls will connect emotionally in ways that baby boys don't") to birthing ("Motherhood changes you because it literally alters a woman's brain-structurally, functionally, and in many ways, irreversibly") to menopause (when "the female brain is nowhere near ready to retire") and beyond. At the same time, Brizedine is not above reviewing the basics: "We may think we're a lot more sophisticated than Fred or Wilma Flintstone, but our basic mental outlook and equipment are the same." While this book will be of interest to anyone who wonders why men and women are so different, it will be particularly useful for women and parents of girls.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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August 07, 2007
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Excerpt from The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D.
The Birth of the Female Brain
Leila was a busy little bee, flitting around the playground, connecting with the other children whether or not she knew them. On the verge of speaking in two- and three-word phrases, she mostly used her contagious smile and emphatic nods of her head to communicate, and communicate she did. So did the other little girls. "Dolly," said one. "Shopping," said another. There was a pint-size community forming, abuzz with chatter, games, and imaginary families.
Leila was always happy to see her cousin Joseph when he joined her on the playground, but her joy never lasted long. Joseph grabbed the blocks she and her friends were using to make a house. He wanted to build a rocket, and build it by himself. His pals would wreck anything that Leila and her friends had created. The boys pushed the girls around, refused to take turns, and would ignore a girl's request to stop or give the toy back. By the end of the morning, Leila had retreated to the other end of the play area with the girls. They wanted to play house quietly together.
Common sense tells us that boys and girls behave differently. We see it every day at home, on the playground, and in classrooms. But what the culture hasn't told us is that the brain dictates these divergent behaviors. The impulses of children are so innate that they kick in even if we adults try to nudge them in another direction. One of my patients gave her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter many unisex toys, including a bright red fire truck instead of a doll. She walked into her daughter's room one afternoon to find her cuddling the truck in a baby blanket, rocking it back and forth saying, "Don't worry, little truckie, everything will be all right."
This isn't socialization. This little girl didn't cuddle her "truckie" because her environment molded her unisex brain. There is no unisex brain. She was born with a female brain, which came complete with its own impulses. Girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys. Their brains are different by the time they're born, and their brains are what drive their impulses, values, and their very reality.
The brain shapes the way we see, hear, smell, and taste. Nerves run from our sense organs directly to the brain, and the brain does all the interpreting. A good conk on the head in the right place can mean that you won't be able to smell or taste. But the brain does more than that. It profoundly affects how we conceptualize the world--whether we think a person is good or bad, if we like the weather today or it makes us unhappy, or whether we're inclined to take care of the day's business. You don't have to be a neuroscientist to know this. If you're feeling a little down and have a nice glass of wine or a lovely piece of chocolate, your attitude can shift. A gray, cloudy day can turn bright, or irritation with a loved one can evaporate because of the way the chemicals in those substances affect the brain. Your immediate reality can change in an instant.
If chemicals acting on the brain can create different realities, what happens when two brains have different structures? There's no question that their realities will be different. Brain damage, strokes, prefrontal lobotomies, and head injuries can change what's important to a person. They can even change one's personality from aggressive to meek or from kind to grumpy.
But it's not as if we all start out with the same brain structure. Males' and females' brains are different by nature. Think about this. What if the communication center is bigger in one brain than in the other? What if the emotional memory center is bigger in one than in the other? What if one brain develops a greater ability to read cues in people than does the other? In this case, you would have a person whose reality dictated that communication, connection, emotional sensitivity, and responsiveness were the primary values. This person would prize these qualities above all others and be baffled by a person with a brain that didn't grasp the importance of these qualities. In essence, you would have someone with a female brain.
We, meaning doctors and scientists, used to think that gender was culturally created for humans but not for animals. When I was in medical school in the 1970s and '80s, it had already been discovered that male and female animal brains started developing differently in utero, suggesting that impulses such as mating and bearing and rearing young are hardwired into the animal brain. But we were taught that for humans sex differences mostly came from how one's parents raised one as a boy or a girl.