UCSF Neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, MD, spoke at UCSF Mission Bay last week about her research, which sheds light on differences between girls and boys and men and women. Brizendine focused the discussion on her best-selling book, The Female Brain, which she calls an "owner's manual" for women because it describes how specific hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, affect thoughts, behavior and a woman's perception of the world. Since hormone levels fluctuate in different stages of life, Brizendine, 54, addresses the sequential behavior changes during infancy, adolescence, motherhood and menopause. Among the interesting facts, Brizendine explained that girls' brains actually begin puberty 18 months to two years before their first menstruation. Boys experience a 25-fold increase in their testosterone level between the ages of nine and 15. Presented by the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women's Health and Women's Forum West, Brizendine's address was the third of a three-part series, "Aging Gracefully." Hear her entire speech here. Importantly, she noted that every brain begins as a female brain and that it only becomes a male brain eight weeks after conception, when excess testosterone shrinks the communication center, reduces the hearing cortex and makes the part of the brain that processes sex twice as large. Brizendine says hormones affect brain development in the womb, causing females to develop larger communication and emotional centers. Her findings also show that women use about 20,000 words per day, compared with 7,000 for men. Because of the larger emotional center, women sense what others are feeling more easily than men and remember emotional details of arguments that men never perceive in the first place.
UCSF Today, July 27, 2006