What Makes Her Tick: Studying the Female Brain
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Posted: Saturday, February 26, 2011
by Nancy Travers
Nancy's Counseling Corner
Although it is quite obvious to almost everyone that boys and girls behave differently, and men and women think and operate differently, rarely is it explained why this is so. The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD attempts to prove the differences by looking at the chemical/hormonal influences on the female brain as opposed to the male brain in a very accessible way.
In the “Love and Trust” chapter the author explains the various thoughts and emotions women go through from courtship and dating to sex and breaking up. The hormone oxytocin appears when a woman falls in love and dopamine is often released as well. Particularly interesting is the author’s explanation regarding how stress affects females’ vs. males’ mating practices. In the next chapter on sex, Dr. Brizendine explains much of the difference between men’s and women’s libidos, orgasms and sexual drive. There’s a lot of insight about how men and women interpret sex and communication differently. To men, sex is communication, while to women, true and honest communication is paramount to a satisfying sex life.
The next change in a woman’s brain occurs if and when she becomes a mother. Biology commandeers a woman’s brain even before she conceives. This helps clarify why women often feel compelled to have children regardless of the consequences. Throughout pregnancy, the female brain responds to changing hormones in a predictable sequence. This chapter could help men understand what and why a woman feels like during pregnancy, labor and childbirth.
In a chapter on emotions, the author explains the differences between men and women at length. It comes as no surprise that women are more emotional. Both genders process emotions quite differently. Women want support and empathy, while men tend to process their difficulties on their own.
In “The Mature Female Brain,” chapter Dr. Brizendine explains the hormonal changes experienced in menopause and suggests several treatments for it. As women age, the testosterone to estrogen ratio increases. This leads to more man-like anger pathways. Progesterone and oxytocin levels decrease also, dampening their calming effects. These changes frequently lead to women’s so-called mid-life crises. Women’s changing brain chemistry is the root-cause of many mid-life personality changes according to the author. Mature women frequently reach their intellectual and personal identity peak at menopause now that child rearing is finished and the “mommy brain” is shutting down.
At the conclusion of the book, the author states, "My intentions for this book were to help women through the various shifts in their lives: shifts so big they actually create changes in a woman's perception of reality, her values, and what she pays attention to. If we can understand how our lives are shaped by our brain chemistry, then maybe we can better see the road ahead." By understanding themselves, women can begin to take steps to narrowing the gender gap and exerting control over their own futures. By better understanding women, and why they act the way they do, men may do the same. And by reading the book with an open, non-scientific mind, both genders can come away and see how the other one ticks.
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