What Distinguishes the Male and Female Brain?

How the Evolutionary Story Lives within Each of Us

Rich Simon


Why do young boys tend to roughhouse while young girls lean towards relational play? According to Louann Brizendine, bestselling author of The Female Brain and The Male Brain, these and many other differences observed between men and women from their earliest years are hardwired—not the product of social conditioning. To more fully understand them, she says, we need to understand the different evolutionary scripts that distinguish the two sexes.

“There are some important differences that Mother Nature has built into us for specific purposes,” Louann tells us. “The hypothalamus, called ‘the area for sexual pursuit,’ is 2.5% larger in the male than the female brain. Mother Nature made it so you guys have a very important purpose—you’re supposed to search out fertile females and impregnate them. Whereas females need to be able to keep helpless infants alive. We have to be able to read subtle expression and all kinds of cues that the infant is communicating to the mom. These are pretty much hardwired in the female. Mother Nature wasn’t going to leave it just to our choice.”

In this brief video clip, Louann explains how neurobiological differences between men and women result from the distinctive “hormonal baths” the male and female brains receive during development.

In our Webcast series Why Brain Science Matters, she takes a controversial position disputed by some neuroscientists, arguing that biological predispositions play a more influential role in shaping gender differences than is commonly assumed in our post-feminist age. Listen to her lively play-by-play of how brain development shapes male and female behavior and identity—then make up your own mind.

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Tags: brain science | brain development | conditioning | female brain | girls | Louann Brizendine | male brain | neurobiological | neuroscience | science | social conditioning

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2 Comments

Saturday, June 7, 2014 9:08:11 PM | posted by Elizabeth Boyajian
I LOVE your work and had both books in my office...I have recommended them for years to my clients struggling to 'get' the other sex or part of their relationships. It was been invaluable to me professionally and personally as I have a daughter and son, same parents so different.

This is a must read for everyone on the planet, to learn about the others neurobiology and to allow for more compassion and kindness as we negotiate life and living. A must have and read for yourself and clients...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 5:40:31 PM | posted by daisy swadesh
Great topic! In understanding people--and the connections between men and women--we need this information.
But why emphasize sexual behavior?
High levels of testosterone in the first months after birth shapes boys' brains for higher activity levels, agression and competitiveness and the ability to focus on one side of the brain due to a narrower corpus callosum.
The French "got" it a long time ago--Vive le difference! And female mammals' nursing their young probably is the evolutionary basis of increased socialization and bigger brains.
But what matters at least as much are the similarities.