August 10, 2006

Your daily rant

don't fucking get me started on these quacks.

Here's what got me:
"Head cases

A few neurological differences between women and men from Louann Brizendine's "The Female Brain":

Thoughts about sex enter women's brains once every couple of days; for men, thoughts about sex occur every minute.

Women use 20,000 words per day; men use 7,000 per day.

Women excel at knowing what people are feeling; men have difficulty spotting an emotion unless someone cries or threatens bodily harm.

Women remember fights that a man insists never happened.

Women over 50 are more likely to initiate divorce."


SOME of them have to do with functionality/ functional outcome, but for FUCK's SAKE, is it AT ALL responsible to say that because a woman is over 50 that she files for divorce because her brain is hard-wired to do so????  I mean COME ON.

MAYBE MAYBE you COULD make the case that women's brains are MORE dependent on the influence of sex hormones than men's and that after menopause function is decreased BECAUSE hormone levels drop.

Sorry to be so mad, but while I am technically a developmental neurobiologist, I am ALSO a neuroendocrinologist.  Which means I study how hormone signals affect the brain.  This is my field, folks.

It is ENTIRELY not clear that the differences in the way women and men think are at all somatic (body-based) rather than socially nurtured.  There is a growing body of evidence that Estrogen and Testosterone drive certain biological processes in the brain,  HOWEVER, E and T are both converted to the same physiologically active molecule (they're not that different to begin with).  Some of the proposed difference may have to do with feedback mechanisms based on progesterone (P), which women have in abundance compared to men.

The idiot who wrote this book argues that women's brains are "wired for communication".  Sure, fine, but IT IS NOT AT ALL CLEAR based on the available evidence that this wiring is a direct effect of having 2 X chromosomes.  MUCH of the wiring in our brains, and in fact the very essence of what we believe about learning and memory, is based on our experience.  The neurological imprint of experience shapes the pattern of wiring in our brains.  If we speak multiple languages as children, for example, we are more able as adults to learn and comprehend multiple languages, as our brains are wired for it.  Because Estrogen and Progesterone affect the processes of wiring, that may play a small role, but clearly, experience is the basis of preferential wiring and preferential connectivity.

There are some anatomical differences in the brains of men and women.  First of all, men have bigger brains.  No shit.  They have bigger bodies.  They also have bigger feet.  the overlap is also pretty significant.  There are some small areas within the brain that are smaller or larger between the sexes, most notably an area in the hypothalamus smaller than the end of your pinky that is significantly different between the sexes (except, purportedly in homosexuals....) according to Simon LeVay back in the late 80s/early90s.  He's a pretty well respected researcher, even though some of his stuff is pretty controversial, like that study.


Also, she talks about hormone cycling and clinical trials, and thats no longer a valid excuse.  Women MUST be included in ALL trials where a therapeutic benefit to females may be achieved (so, that's everything but things like prostate cancer or ED...).  Women who participate in studies that may be affected by their hormones have to keep track of their cycles and note if they are taking any other medications that could alter hormone levels or function, such as birth control, HRT, anti-cholesterol medications (statins especially), and some antibiotics.  These factors are generally accounted for, and generally make no difference.

To sum up, while the premise of the book is not entrely bogus, based on her arguments in the interview and the "neurological differences" presented at the end, it is clear that this book is full of inconclusive data and incomplete understanding, and should be viewed as a POSSIBLE explanation for some of the cognitive/ personality/ functional differences between the sexes.  And a far too simple one, at that.

Just also wanted to point out that it appears that the author of this book is in fact a "real" scientist, who evidently publishes research about hormones and depression.... So perhaps this book is an extended theoretical paper.

Posted by caltechgirl at August 10, 2006 11:43 AM | TrackBack

I think YOU should write a book...I actually understand science stuff when you explain it!!

Posted by: Amanda at August 10, 2006 12:22 PM

And how does she explain the women who want it 3 times a day after the age of 30? Trust me when I say I am not the only one that has reached that point (though I think it has to do more with how you feel about yourself than 'wiring')... And I agree with Amanda. You make more sense and I like it better.

Posted by: vw bug at August 10, 2006 01:32 PM

But are you really mad? It's hard to tell, since you didn't threaten bodily harm to the writer. (From a woman who actually does have a hard time figuring out what people are feeling most of the time, and who has a 7-year-old son who has a larger vocabulary than some teenagers and is extremely verbal.)

Posted by: Jenna at August 11, 2006 07:45 AM

Manual Trackback™

Posted by: Ken S, Fifth String on the Banjo of Life at August 11, 2006 11:13 AM

She also claims, "It has become more OK to talk about brain differences between genders over the past few years," - yeh right, tell that to Larry Summers, former president of Harvard... It's only possible to do so if you're a woman. She gets to make her speach on the body of "an old, dead, white, male."

Posted by: DirtCrashr at August 11, 2006 12:57 PM