The Female Brain

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Book Commentary

Liz Frontino

The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine

Louann Brizendine uses her book “The Female Brain” to shed some light for the masses on the puzzling differences between men and women, by using human interest in order to engage the readers on this interesting topic. This topic has been one of increasing interest to me, especially upon entering college and being exposed to so many different types of men and women.

From the beginning of their lives, female and male exhibit different traits. These differences are shown just by examining different behaviors between little girls and little boys, which shows a tendency for more outgoing behavior in girls, and a more reserved attitude in boys (12). So what causes this tendency for differences?

As we have discussed in class this semester, behavior differences somehow correspond to differences in brain anatomy and organization. Although there are not many empirically noted differences between males and females, this book could help inspire new research into the subject, and perhaps prompt some more conclusive evidence. Dr. Brizendine offers some clear behavioral differences between men and women, such as emotional responses, depression and anxiety tendencies, and aggression. She gives some probable causes for behavioral differences between the two sexes, including amygdala function (34), hormonal distribution (xviii), and brain activation during certain activities (5).

This book made me consider research into gender studies in a new light. Researchers have been trying to find a definitive difference in the brains of males and females for decades, without true findings. What Brizendine has done is base her book off of real human experiences with her patients. I think this raises an important point. It can oftentimes be much more beneficial to examine actual people and their experiences rather than going off of numbers. Dr. Brizendine uses case studies of patients with conditions that relate very well to different stages of women’s brains, and she uses them well to illustrate the young girl brain, the teen girl brain, the mommy brain and the mature female brain.

 However, this raises an additional point about the types of studies conducted by Brizendine. What I found frustrating in this book was Brizendine’s lack to look beyond the facts. She doesn’t question or offer different explanations for any of her propositions. Nor does she really talk about any abnormal cases. She uses her own patient cases to support the behaviors she notes in her book. While this is helpful, I don’t feel that she went much beyond the stereotypes she was talking about. Surely not everyone falls into such generalities?

Nevertheless, I feel that an increasing number of studies should be based on conclusive population evidence based on actual people than simply brain behavior. Humans are all different, with multifarious traits and personalities. Is it really fair to do studies based on the ‘trends’ of the masses? However, these findings would then have to be backed up with substantial scientific explanation, something I feel that Dr. Brizendine’s book lacks.

The most intriguing aspect of the book for me lay in the descriptions of the brain of the pregnant and mother female. It is astonishing the amount of neuro re-configuration that must occur, and does occur with the birth of a child. Evolutionary, it is important that someone be so invested in a child, but it’s terribly frightening to think that I don’t have any control over my body once I become pregnant, that I will never be truly independent again.

I’m not really sure how well this book compliments or adds to our discussions in class. Dr. Brizendine does a wonderful job of explaining basic brain anatomy and behaviors, but she doesn’t go much further than this. I found her statistics about women’s brains to be very interesting, but I was frustrated by her lack of explanation on them. For example, on page 132 she says “Anxiety is a state that occurs when stress or fear triggers the amygdala, causing the brain to rally all its conscious attention to the threat at hand” (132). However, she does not go into any details of the mechanism of this process. I know she’s trying to sell a book to the general population, but what I have found very useful within our class discussions is how we talk about the actual processes of certain diseases or conditions.

Basically, I’ve found that Dr. Brizendine focused more on general observations rather than backing it up with substantial neurobiological circumstances. That being said, I feel that this book is a wonderful resource for women who are looking to find out more general information about their behaviors. It goes into great discussions about all of the natural processes in women’s lives, and why we experience certain mood swings and feelings.

 

 

 

Brizendine, Louann. The Female Brain. New York: Morgan Road, 2006. Print.

 

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