San Francisco neuropsychiatrist says differences between women's and men's brains are very real, and the sooner we all understand it, the better
Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, August 6, 2006
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.
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.
"The basic idea is that men and women approach the same problems in somewhat different ways, at least in part because of the biological differences in the brain, which in turn interact with experience -- the nature-nurture story," said McEwen.
For all women -- and those who love them -- she offers a tip.
Research shows that the female brain naturally releases oxytocin after a 20-second hug. The embrace bonds the huggers and triggers the brain's trust circuits. So Brizendine advises, don't let a guy hug you unless you plan to trust him.
"And if you do," she said, "make sure it lasts 20 seconds."
Of course, it is no surprise what men have in their head