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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 14, 2007

I bet you didn't know these facts:

(1) "Men use about seven thousand words per day. Women use about twenty-thousand."
(2) "Girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys."
(3) "Men are on average twenty times more aggressive than women."
(4) "Girls are motivated--on a molecular and neurological level--to ease and prevent social conflict."
(5) "85% of twenty-to thirty-year-old males think about sex every fifty-two seconds and women think about it once a day--up to three or four times on fertile days."
(6) "Men pick up the subtle signs of sadness in a female face only 40 percent of the time, whereas women can pick up these signs 90 percent of the time."
(7) "65 percent of divorces after the age of fifty are initiated by women."

These seven facts are some of the interesting information that you'll learn in this book by Louann Brizendine M.D., a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and founder of the Women's and Teen Girls' Mood and Hormone Clinic.

The thesis of this book is that the female brain sees the world differently and reacts differently than the male brain in every stage of life from newborn to old age. A women's behavior is radically different from that of a man due to mainly hormonal differences. This book is quite easy to read and, in fact, reads like a novel.

However, I found the book to have minimal neuroscience (as suggested by the book's title). It was comprised mainly of anecdotes (some autobiographical) that exaggerate the differences between women and men thus reinforcing gender stereotypes. As well, I found many contradictions throughout. In places of her book, Brizendine is also surprisingly naïve.

When I was reading this book, what struck me was the exactness of some of the facts the author presents (such as the seven presented above). So I decided to search on the Internet for other reviews of this book from mainly scholarly sources. The avalanche of negative information I found was astounding!!

A major problem concerned her extensive endnotes. From reading this mass of negative information, it seems to me that Brizendine is attempting to present an authoritative voice to impress despite what the authors say in her numerous endnotes. That is, her supporting citations don't support her claims. If you couple this with Brizendine's impressive academic credentials (highlighted especially in the book's acknowledgements section and inside back flap), then most people, unfortunately, accept everything she says at face value. (By the way, the seven "facts" above are not supported by Brizendine's citations.)

I was intrigued by this so I checked out Brizendine's brief biography on the book's inside back flap. A piece of information that intrigued me states that "She has written in professional texts and journals." What I wanted to know was how many professional research papers she has written in. Again from searching on the Internet I found she had written exactly 7 research papers in collaboration with others and she's not the first named author in any of the seven. (To put this in context, her colleague in the Psychiatry Department at UCSF, Associate Professor Steven P. Hamilton has published 24 papers since 1994 and is first listed author on 11.)

For a "pioneering neuropsychiatrist," (honest, this is what it says on the book's front inside front flap) she has a poor research paper publication rate.

At the beginning of her endnotes and references section, she states in a preamble the following:

"I have gathered the work of many scientists in various disciplines in order to arrive at this understanding of the female brain."

From my understanding of this quotation, she used only the work of only scientists to establish her claims. However, in her references are works authored by Allen Pease and Allan Garner. These people are not scientists!!

Also, in this preamble she calls everything she has written in her book a "theory" (a collection of general principles that is put forward as an explanation for a set of known facts and empirical findings). I found her theory to be quite rigid since she doesn't allow for or explain any exceptions and this undermines her entire theory. Yes, men and woman's brains are different but within each gender, you'll find a wide range of behavior. To ignore this fact as Brizendine does is to present a very narrow view of human experience.

I have to agree with an October 2006 article in the publication "Nature" that was entitled "Psychoneuroindoctrinology" (a pun on the word pyschoneuroendrocrinology) which states that this book "fails to meet even the most basic standards of accuracy and balance," "is riddled with scientific errors," and "is misleading about the processes of brain development, the neuroendocrine system, and the nature of sex differences in general."

Finally, I should explain my rating for this book. The majority of those who are not critical thinkers will probably give this book 5 stars. The majority of those who ARE critical thinkers will probably give this book 1 star. My rating is the average of these two extremes.

In conclusion, those readers who are not critical thinkers will probably thoroughly enjoy this book. Critical thinking readers will probably have the opposite response!!

{first published 2006; acknowledgements; the female brain (a human brain diagram with captions); cast of neuro-hormone characters (list of hormones with descriptions that affect a woman's brain); phases of a female's life (chart); introduction; seven chapters; epilogue; main narrative 165 pages; 3 appendices; notes; references; index}

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HALL OF FAMEon December 29, 2006
A few years ago, New York Times science writer Natalie Angier produced "Woman: An Intimate Geography". The book was intended to explain many facets of a woman's body, and was a good comprehensive account, sorely overdue. However, except for some discussion of hormonal influences, the book tended to skim over the brain's role. Louann Brizendine takes up that slack with enthusiasm and deep experience. As founder of a clinic dealing with women's health and behaviour issues, she's adept at explaining complex issues clearly. She relates her own studies and that of many researchers [seventy pages of "References" impart that!], nearly all of it of recent vintage. As such, this is the most up-to-date and comprehensive study of how the female brain develops that is available today.

The author reminds us that all human brains start out female. Until the Y chromosome's genes begin transforming the embryo by a cascade of hormonal signals, all the brain cells are XX, the default. Then males and females are sent down the separate tracks of sex development. As much distinction as we see between males and females, the hidden differences in the brain are easily as significant, if not more so. Brizendine explains the triggers launching the conditions found in the female brain, showing how different ratios of neurotransmitters between males and females assist in guiding them along their separate paths.

From the growing embryo, the author moves on to the child's years and through adolescence, adulthood and the grandmother years. At the outset, it's clear that a woman's biological signals are strong and persistent, even if sometimes inconsistent. There are strong evolutionary roots to why women's "moods" are as they are and some of these are manifest in other animals, a point Angier dismissed scornfully. A woman's level of empathy with others is far higher than a man's. She develops a sense of reconciliation to prevent or avoid danger to herself and her offspring. Preparation for this outlook begins early. Females bond with other females at a young age, reflecting their tendency for negotiation and conciliation. Little girls group in the sandbox or schoolyard, while boys are more willing to act alone. In groups, boys will contest for leadership spots, while girls tend to act concertedly. A "leadership" role, if taken up in a girl's clique, may rotate among its members. This may result from "talking out" an issue among the girls. With females uttering nearly three times the number of words per day than men do, talking out a situation comes more naturally even to the young.

Once the devastating chemical storms of adolescence quiet down, entering adulthood doesn't mean hormonal fluctuations level off. Instead, the estrus cycle brings a wave of chemical flows that "marinate the brain" with new varieties. During adolescence, a spurt of new cells is generated in the brain. Specific centres, such as that for speech, enlarge and have greater influence on behaviour. Love enters the picture and issues of sex and commitment become prominent. It is in these sections of the book that Brizendine's clinical experience is best brought forth. Running a clinic in San Francisco on "Women's and Teen Girls' Mood and Hormone Clinic" brings her in frequent contact with the results of the female brain's chemical machinations. As she depicts the circumstances of a client's condition, Brizendine is able to take the reader along on imaginary trips into the female brain to explain which chemicals are performing which tasks. Levels of dopamine, estrogen, testosterone and cortisol are being adjusted by the hypothalamus and amygdala in reaction to various prompts. It's a busy place in there, with little "down time" for the working chemists.

One form of apparent reduced capacity is due to the onset of depression. Studies of depression in women go back many years, but only recently have the neurochemical aspects been discovered. Although there are many causes for depression, menopause is a consistently fundamental one. Brizendine, after a lengthy examination of the issue, concludes that estrogen therapy, initiated as soon as menopause - which "technically lasts for only twenty-four hours" - is applied promptly. Delay renders the therapy useless, perhaps even dangerous. Beyond the general text, the author provides an Epilogue and three Appendixes to address further the issues of hormone therapy, depression and sexual orientation. The package Brizendine has put together is expressive and informative. There are many areas where she concedes "we don't know why" which will surely be attended to by the research this book will spur. While this book may someday be outdated, it's an excellent summation of what we know now - and which a good many should learn about. Read this book to find out why. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on September 24, 2006
As a philosopher working in the philosophy of science and in the relationship between science amd values I looked forward to this book since I hold a view that biology is at the basis of our behaviour.

In some ways this is a great book, but it is seriously flawed.

Dr. Brizendrine provides a bioogical or hormonal explanation for various female behavioural patterns, from infancy to old age showing how hormones affect behaviour. This aspect of the book is excelllent. It is important to know that so much of our behaviour is based on our biological makeups. In this regard the book is a wonderful corrective to the extreme views regarding the social construction of our behaviour.

But this last point brings up the book's weakness since there is virtually no mention made of the social context of the behaviours discussed. The forms and specific aspects of our behaviours are socially constructed. Different societies struucture their respective behaviours differently. It is our biology that makes us human. But to just present how biology can effect or even determine some behaviours in insufficient since we also need to know how these hormonal changes can affect different women in different cultures.

So, on the one hand, it is great to see a serious discussion of how hormones affect behaviour, but on the other hand, more time should have been paid to the social context of these specific behaviours.
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on December 2, 2007
I'm not a huge fan of this book, and probably few males are. Honestly, it seems like thinly veiled male bashing, and I've read that some of the references cited by the author are questionable. For example, the 20000 female spoken words per day versus 7000 male words per day claim. I'd like to meet the person, ANY person, who on average speaks 20000 words a day; that number seems more than a bit high unless you're an auctioneer, not to mention the supposed 3:1 ratio in words between women and men. Another problem I have with this book is that it uses vague generalities to describe supposedly prototypical women and men, without acknowledging the vast differences in personality and behavior between individuals within each gender. There is also an overemphasis on sex hormones versus neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, where such neurotransmitter systems probably play a prominent role in encoding many of the characteristics the author ascribes to hormones. On the other hand, the author is good at conveying complex subject matter in simple language, and has a pleasing style of writing. I also think she genuinely cares about her patients, and this comes through in her writing. Overall, worth taking a look. Author of Adjust Your Brain: A Practical Theory for Maximizing Mental Health.
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Men and women have different brains. Not exactly rocket science but Louann Brizendine makes the former statement interesting by chronicling each stage of female life from birth to puberty to post-menopause and explaining how the female brain develops compared to its male counterpart. As the founder of the Women's and Teen Girls' Mood and Hormone Clinic, Dr. Brizendine draws on experience and case studies to present fun facts on two major theses: that inherent structural differences between male and female brains affect behavior, and that hormones directly influence the brain.

In utero, the brain starts out as female and remains so unless it experiences a surge of testosterone that changes its structure. The different sizes of different structures determine basic gender generalizations: women rely on communication, they give more weight to relationships and display more fear of abandonment. The focus on such generalizations becomes "The Female Brain"'s downfall. Brizendine gives enough background to justify her statements but it often feels like she cherry-picks her information and she doesn't account for the huge personality variations that exist within each gender.

A cross between enlightening and aggravating, this book may explain how hormone therapy helps hot flashes but fails to prove that brain structure sets gender identification in stone.
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on May 12, 2014
I have read this book a couple of times and recommended it to others who had the same realizations and consciousness about our perplexing wiring as I did. It was hugely educational and explains a lot, in a simple, easy to understand, "story-telling" approach. Women will identify. For men with wives and daughters, it is a must-read. This is the "Venus and Mars" of our generation. I tend to use it a a reference manual whenever I need to. Just flipping to sections relating to my "brain" as it relates to my time of life and/or what is going on in my life at any given time. I've just bought The Male Brain by the same author and expect (or hope) to be properly educated about their confounding differences, and why they are as they are. There is freedom, empathy and comprehension that comes from educating oneself. Truly worth learning about this! It's about time! Thanks to Louann Brizendine M.D. We needed her.
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on May 6, 2010
it's fascinating how much of a role our hormones play in how we think, feel and act. Basically everything in our bodies & psyches as females can be attributed to the complex interaction of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone & others. Awesome information. This is one of the most interesting physiology-based books I have ever read. The author is not biased and gives info from the 'male brain' also. As the cover states - "All women - and the men who love them - should read this book."
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on February 18, 2013
This book was a great insight into the neurochemical reasons we do what we do. It was presented in an easy to read format.
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on November 27, 2014
I could not finish it. A very annoyingly book full of stereotypes. The author overgeneralized everything. She claimed that all that important for women is communicating and making bonds. Neither me nor my mom need communication and "going to the mall" all that much. I guess we are men, acording to this sexist book.
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In this world there are facts, and there are opinions.
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts." Patrick Moynihan.

This book is not about the female brain, but about hormones, and the fluctuations experienced throughout life, through birth, teen years, sex, love, mommy and menopause. I felt compassion and new understanding of what women have to go through. A woman or a man reading this book might gain value and insight from that information. That aspect is quite good.

With the 90 pages of references that this book contains to scientific reports, one might expect that this book would reflect an unbiased scientific proof of those reports. However, the author cherry picks her facts, and colors them pink with her own personal biases and prejudices:

The female brain is superior to men because women are better at communicating and connecting, and men may experience brain envy. Is she a mind reader? In fact, if women are four times as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety as men, as she says, why would anyone make that trade?

There is only one brain diagram listing seven items in darker shade leaving most of the brain depicted blank, and its function unexplained. What goes on in this area? Another brain book I am reading has 11 good diagrams with plenty of detail.

She explains why women do not tend to excel at science and math; hormone difference in teen years, plus she spoke to some women friends, one in particular, who was a scientist. She wanted a more social career. This is an example of her sweeping generalizing, and superficial exploration of a provocative topic. One woman equals all women. No mention of famous female scientists. Examples would be Marie Curie, and Florence Nightingale, who invented the pie chart..

Men are continuously portrayed as socially and emotionally retarded, and overly aggressive. She uses the playground analogy, of the young girl, and her cousin Johnny who would take her toys. Johnny is represented as not only typical of all five year olds, but all men. Girl good, boy bad. Boy bad, all men bad.

She thought something was wrong with her own baby son because he was less interested in faces than a girl his age. Doesn't she know that boys are more interested in objects, and ideas while girls are more interested in people?

Then a three year old girl is brought to her, because she said she was a boy, and her behavior was aggressive, and yet she had girlish interests. She diagnosed her with CAH a hormone disorder, and used hormones to put it right. Hmmm.

She states that in ancient times women banded together to protect themselves from dangerous cavemen. Was she there? Can she time travel? In fact the more likely explanation proposed by evolutionary biologists is men risked being kicked out of their small community if they were rejected by a female, and never have a chance for replication, and that explains why men feel anxious approaching women. What about women banding together to connect and socialise as she mentioned earlier.

Most annoying is her bandying about the words perception and reality as if they have the same meaning. Here are examples: hormones change reality, teen reality, female reality, hormones created a reality, her reality was stable, a version of reality, reality in fact can be a daily uncertainty. Hormones change teen reality, and perception of themselves. She does mean perceptions of reality or events, right?

Reality can be defined as -things as they are, not appearances.
"All reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." Einstein.
"There is no reality only perception." Dr Phil Mc Graw.
"Reality is that which when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K Dick.

She states there is no difference between clitoral and vaginal orgasms, because the nerves are all connected internally. Sounds like going to Anaheim, and giving Disneyland a miss. What about all the contradictory reports, like the Shere Hite report.

She asks does chemistry change perceptions? Rather tellingly, she does not ask, if perceptions change chemistry, or offer any meaningful suggestions of how they can. That is the single biggest failing of this book.

One could easily gain the impression that female consciousness and attention does not matter, or does not exist. There is no chapter on consciousness in the book. Nor is there a chapter on reasoning, or focus, or behavioral flexibility, or Triune Brain theory.

My concern with this book is the hormones and pills change everything approach. A pill is not a skill. Skill is learning to observe emotions and perceptions as they arise, release them, change them, and so evolve.

As Aristotle said: `Man is a rational animal.' When we grow up we learn to channel our aggression in useful ways. We build houses, roads, bridges, cars, systems.

Let's say our ancestors killed buffalo. Caring what the buffalo thinks or feels interferes with dinner plans. Talking might distract us from our mission and alert the buffalo. Not being aggressive enough or persistent in purpose meant we would not eat.

We protect those we love. We make scientific discoveries. What we lack in finesse, we can compensate for in willingness to learn. We are not knuckle dragging troglodytes.

The G spot was discovered by Dr Grafenberg, a man. Women's satisfaction matters to us. We work with spades and clubs, and yet, what would they be without hearts and diamonds to complement them.

Now, she is writing a book called The Male Brain. Grrr. Instead of burying her head in Scientific Journals, she needs to read some books to broaden her perspective.

I recommend other authors such as David Buss, Richard Dawkins, Helen Fisher, and Secret Psychology of How We Fall In Love by Paul Dobransky MD, which is a how to book about the courtship process, and contains resources for dealing with anxiety, low self esteem and depression.

I hope you find this review helpful.
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