An Owner’s Manual for Women…and Men
The Female Brain. By Louann Brizendine, M.D., New York, Broadway Books, 2006.
279 pp. $14.95, (paperback). ISBN 978-0-7679-2010-0.
Susan A. Albrecht
Published online: 18 April 2009
Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009
This is a must-read book for both genders. Pioneering
neuropsychiatrist Brizendine makes a significant, timely
assessment of women’s brains and hormones and how each
influences females to place value during the various stages
of life: from conception, to dating, childbirth, childrearing,
and then to menopause and after. Each of the thoughtfully-
written eight chapters clearly reveals the author’s extensive
knowledge, research, and clinical expertise.
The Female Brain is appropriate for males and females
of any age looking for scientific and yet practical expla-
nations for female behavior. Little or no background in
psychology or women’s studies is required to reap the
benefits of this text. Brizendine weaves together complex
scientific concepts in a clear and easily understood manner.
She takes readers through the stages of a woman’s life and
demonstrates the influence of hormones on every aspect of
behavior, including the neuro-chemical underpinnings of
passionate love. A fetal to post-menopausal chart—The
Phases of a Female’s Life—is a quick reference for the
major hormone changes for, what females have that males
don’t, for female-specific brain changes, and for the reality
Brizendine reports that women’s brains are so deeply
affected by hormones that their influence can shape female
values and desires, determining what is important at every
stage of life. Equally significant is the author’s focus on the
fact that men and women have dissimilar structural,
chemical, genetic, hormonal and functional brain variations.
Each uses different brain circuits to solve problems, process
language, and experience and store strong feelings.
Brizendine presents striking reasons why women may
remember the smallest detail of first dates and biggest fights,
while their husbands hardly remember the events happened.
She describes the hippocampus part of the brain as the hub of
both emotion and memory formation. This part of the brain is
larger in females, as is the circuitry for language and
observing emotion in others, explaining why women are
better at expressing emotions and recalling details of
emotional events. According to Brizendine, males have two
and a half times the brain space devoted to sexual drive and
larger areas of the brain responsible for aggression and
action. Even though 99% of both genders’ genetic coding is
matched, the one percent difference between the sexes
influences every cell in the body. The author details how
the scientific data plays out in reality.
Interestingly, Brizendine describes men as having larger
processors in the core of the most primitive area of the
brain that registers fear and triggers aggression—the
amygdala. She explains this is why some men can go from
zero to a fistfight in a matter of seconds, while many
females will defuse conflict. Brizendine presents clear
reasons why basic structural variances in male and female
brains lay the groundwork for contrasts in everyday
behavior and life experiences.
Throughout the text, Brizendine delivers complex
research in a clear and practical manner. The passages cull
from spectacular advances in our understanding of genetics
molecular neuroscience, fetal and pediatric endocrinology,
and neurohormonal development. The chapters explore
primatology, animal studies, and infant observations,
offering insightful connections why particular behaviors
are programmed into women’s brains by a combination of
nature and nurture.
Brizendine offers compelling descriptions, analyses, and
examples of how the adolescent female brain functions in
Sex Roles (2009) 61:286–287
S. A. Albrecht (*)
University of Pittsburgh,
Pittsburgh, PA, USA