Psychiatrist Louann Brizendine,
currently of the University of California, San Francisco and formerly of
Harvard Medical School, has published the predictable followup to her
bestselling book The Female
This may be the most
accessible book I have ever read that has slightly more than half its
length taken up with appendices, notes, references, and the index. In
135 easy-to-read pages, Brizendine lays out the basic functioning of the
male brain. Despite the number of books addressing these general
topics, the author stands out due to her knack both for memorable
formulations of information and for bringing up little-discussed aspects
of the brain and tying them into everyday aspects of life to which we
can relate.

Her prefatory material is fabulous in
itself. We get two pages summarizing the ten principal areas of the
male brain, followed by a three-page “cast of neurohormone characters”
that sets the tone as it gives us the list of players as if we were in
the theatre: “Testosterone—Zeus. King of the male hormones, he is
dominant, aggressive, and all-powerful….” Or the less familiar
“Mullerian Inhibiting Substance (MIS)—Hercules. He’s strong, tough, and
fearless. Also known as the Defeminizer, he ruthlessly strips away all
that is feminine from the male….” One more: “Androstenedione—Romeo. The
charming seducer of women. When released by the skin as a pheromone he
does more for a man’s sex appeal than any aftershave or cologne.” Next
are two pages summarizing the phases of a man’s life.

Then the book proper begins!
Brizendine explains that male and female brains do differ considerably.
“In the female brain, the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and oxytocin
predispose brain circuits toward female-typical behaviors. In the male
brain, it’s testosterone, vasopressin, and a hormone called MIS
(Mullerian inhibiting substance) that have the earliest and most
enduring effects…. We have learned that men use different brain circuits
to process spatial information and solve emotional problems.” The
author aligns her chapters with the different principal phases of a male
brain’s life—the boy brain, the teen boy brain, the mating brain, the
brain below the belt, the daddy brain, manhood, and the mature male

In the chapters on the boy brain and
the teen boy brain, the doctor provides tales drawn from her own
experiences raising boys.  By the time we get to the mating brain,
things are really starting to heat up. She provides a detailed
travelogue of an imaginary train trip along the brain circuits of “the
male brain in love.” One key area of the brain involved in pair bonding
is the ventral tegmental area or VTA, whose cells manufacture dopamine,
“the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitter for motivation and reward….
Filled with dopamine, the train would speed along his brain circuits to
the next station, the NAc, or nucleus accumbens, the area for
anticipation of pleasure and reward.” And later, “[a]s the train sped
into the final station, the caudate nucleus, or CN, the area for
memorizing the look and identity of whoever is giving you pleasure,”
we’d see al the tiniest details about the woman who started the train
going in the first place.

Interestingly, to reach orgasm, “both
men and women must first turn off a few parts of the brain—like the
amygdale, the brain’s danger and alert center—and the areas for
self-consciousness and worrying—the anterior cingulated cortex, or ACC.”
Now there’s a topic that I haven’t heard feminists talk
about much. Although I had heard this before, I appreciated the author’s
reminder that, women’s complaints that men don’t care enough about them
to stay awake and cuddle to the contrary, “the truth is that the
hormone oxytocin is to blame for a man’s so-called postcoital

Being a father myself, it is
fascinating to read about the daddy brain and then to consider how
nature has equipped males to do such different tasks—fight, conquer a
woman, and then nurture children. Certain brain circuits are designed to
induce men to fall in love with their children. “[C]lose physical
contact releases oxytocin and pleasure hormones in dads, too, bonding
parent to child.” And of course, as the author reminds us, men are
critical to a child’s well-being. Active discipline from fathers plays a
crucial role in a child’s success in life, and a girl’s close
relationship with her father can set the stage for getting along well
with men throughout her life.

In the manhood chapter, the author
explains that both men and women have both a mirror-neuron system (MNS)
and a temporal-parietal junction system (TPJ) but the female brain stays
in the MNS longer while the male brain quickly switches over to the
problem solving, action-oriented TPJ. These different brain circuits
function adaptively and helpfully, for the most part, even though in
modern society we may sometimes deny certain aspects of the behaviors
they produce. The TPJ induces men to, for example, aggressively stare
down guys they may catch checking out their wives, and women—whatever
they may say—generally feel flattered by such behavior. Like it or not,
“[r]esearch shows that angry men get noticed more—not only by other men
but also by women.” Not only that, but “couples who argue have a better
chance of staying together.”

Finally, the mature male brain has
grown in comfort with its established rank in whatever hierarchies apply
to the man’s life, and it feels less called to prove itself than it did
when it was younger.

What a great book! A quick, easy, and
pleasant read, yet a very enlightening and instructive one. The model
of integrating small amounts of core text with large quantities of
prefatory and supplementary material is one other authors should
consider adopting. Don’t miss this fabulous work. Three cheers!


Source: Men's News Daily –