Understanding the Neural Marinade

Understanding the Neural Marinade

Controversy over gender differences and the brain

By Richard Handler

January/February 2007

The Female Brain
By Louann Brizendine
Morgan Road Books. 279 pp. ISBN: 0-767-92009-0

In The Female Brain, neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine has written a book that's a publicist's dream. Since it first hit the bookstores last summer, it's been reviewed extensively and its author has been profiled in newspapers and magazines around the country. Conservative columnist David Brooks of The New York Times even devoted a full column to the book. Best of all, radio and television shows, where people get much of their information nowadays, have made Brizendine an instant mini-celebrity.

You may have already heard the roll call of the book's catchy assertions (displayed prominently on its book flap): women use 20,000 words a day and men a mere 7,000. Men think of sex once a minute, women only every couple of days. And "a woman knows what people are feeling while a man can't spot an emotion unless somebody cries or threatens bodily harm."

The book's fundamental claim is women are different because they have different brains. As a result, they're deeply sensitive to emotions and form strong relationship bonds, while men wouldn't know a feeling unless it hit them in the face.

The popularity of Brizendine's book is further testimony to the public's growing infatuation with the new glamour-puss of knowledge: neuroscience. Less than a century ago, educated readers were enthralled by the mythic stories…

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