Bookmarks Issue: 

A-The Female BrainOn average, women use 20,000 words a day; men, on the other hand, use a scant 7,000. And consider this: "The brain circuits that are activated when we are in love match those of the drug addict desperately seeking the next fix." Those are two of the many facts that Louann Brizendine brings to bear on her study of how the female brain differs from its male counterpart. Presenting analysis on an area of study that has gained traction only in the last decade or so, Brizendine offers a "user’s guide to new research about the female brain and the neurobehavioral systems that make us women." The book describes how hard wiring and hormones conspire to separate the sexes from one another, from cradle (or in utero) to grave.
Morgan Road. 280 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0767920090

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The author’s greatest gift to her readers is the way she takes us through the stages of a woman’s life to show the influence of hormone levels on every decision. It’s not just a matter of biology, she suggests, but also of how biology affects perception and our ability to function." Susan Salter Reynolds

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"With 80 pages of notes and references supporting 190 page of text, [Brizendine] seamlessly weaves together the findings of innumerable articles and books, both technical and popular, along with accounts of patients she treated at her clinic, to support her claim that ‘the female brain is so deeply affected by hormones that their influence can be said to create a woman’s reality.’" Deborah Tannen

St. Petersburg Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Instead of trying to minimize the differences between men and women, Brizendine caricatures them. … Mercifully, [she] translates her knowledge of brain research into conversational English, and generously illustrates her arguments with examples." Tom Valeo

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Brizendine exhibits a nice, explanatory touch, and she peppers her book with fun facts. … But do we really need a psychiatrist to point out that women can be chatty and men can be fixated on sex?" Karen R. Long

San Francisco Chronicle 2 of 5 Stars
"For a scientist, Brizendine relies heavily on anecdotes. … Yes, men and women’s brains are different; but within each gender, you’ll find a wide range of behaviors—and to ignore this fact is to present a narrow view of human experience." Hannah Wallace

NY Times Book Review 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Too much of it sounds like a women’s magazine article, as though Brizendine … doesn’t want to burden us with facts. … If you want data to support some of Brizendine’s more controversial claims, you have to work hard to find it." Robin Marantz Henig

Critical Summary

Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, explores groundbreaking issues in brain science with mixed results. Critics debate the author’s presentation and research; some extol her many and varied sources and the book’s accessibility, while others take her to task for relying too heavily on anecdotal evidence and "dumbing down" the text (Robin Marantz Henig cites the author’s repeated use of "cutesy language" and slang). Despite the critical ambivalence, the author certainly has the credentials to write this book. Brizendine graduated from the Yale University School of Medicine and draws on research done at the Women’s and Teen Girls’ Mood and Hormone Clinic, which she founded at UCSF in 1994. So the question is, do you require step-by-step proof for conclusions some consider controversial, or are you willing to take her word for it?