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Gender? It's A Gray Area.

"There is no unisex brain," says Louann Brizendine, author of "The Female Brain." "It follows these two brain models can produce quite different behaviors." (By Thor Swift For The Washington Post)

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By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 24, 2006

SAUSALITO, Calif.

According to pop psychiatrist Louann Brizendine, author of the best-selling new book "The Female Brain," men and women come equipped with completely different operating systems -- not only below the belt but between the ears.

Like bath towels, there are his-and-her brains.

Or so Brizendine interprets the latest skull scanning: Woman is weather, "constantly changing and hard to predict." And man? Man is mountain. But maybe you knew that.

Brizendine insists this is a scientific fact. Males and females may perform similar calculations, but they use different "circuits." Woman is Mac. Man is PC. Blame the brain.

The female version excels at conflict resolution, deep friendship and mood reading. "These are talents women are born with that many men, frankly, are not," says Brizendine, who recently spent a morning at the kitchen table in her waterfront home, issuing similar sweeping observations about the neurological underpinnings of wicked-bad PMS, teen girl text-messaging, and the frisky later chapter of life known as "post-menopausal zest."

First of all, Brizendine says, our floor plans are different. She's got the bigger "worrywart center" (the anterior cingulated cortex), and so stress tends to wig her out, as "conflict registers more deeply in the areas of the female brain."

That more ripe prefrontal cortex of hers? Makes the ladies pacific and patient. Her hippocampus also runs a size larger. Meaning "she never forgets a fight, a romantic encounter or a tender moment -- and won't let you forget it, either," says Brizendine, founder of the Women's and Teen Girls' Mood & Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco.

Her bottom line? "There is no unisex brain," says Brizendine, and "it follows these two brain models can produce quite different behaviors." Such as: Average Woman sure talks a lot. Average Man does not. She obsesses on her sexual allure. He obsesses on sex. It's not our fault. Not only is the architecture of boy/girl brains different, but wait until the hormones do their work.

His brain is "marinated" (her favorite word) with testosterone, "the rocket fuel" of sex and aggression (and barbecue?). While her brain is a spinning Tilt-a-Whirl of estrogen and progesterone, and the new darling of the hormone world oxytocin, which you definitely want to check out, the hormone Brizendine describes as the "fluffy, purring kitty; cuddly, nurturing earth mother; the good witch Glinda in 'The Wizard of Oz.' "

For Brizendine, it's all about the juice.

"The female brain is so affected by hormones, they control her very perception of reality," says the doctor. "Her values, her desires, what's important to her, even whom she loves."


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