So I grabbed this book – Unleash the Power of the Female Brain by Dr. Daniel Amen - on a whim the other day while looking for a cheeky menopause book for my mom’s birthday. I’ve been making my way through it, and while it’s not the deepest thing I’ve ever read it’s got me thinking more about masculine and feminine energies, men and women and all that jazz.
He opens the book with this quote - “I have an idea that the phrase “the weaker sex” was coined by some woman to disarm the man she was preparing to overwhelm” – Ogden Nash. While it’s ultimately what made me buy the book, it made me reflect on the he vs. she culture we often have going. I’m new to this whole space and will totally admit to being terrified of stepping on an unPC bomb at any moment given the fluidity of gender and sex. Still I find all of this fascinating – therefore I will bravely venture forth and be prepared to stand corrected
There’s been a lot of research lately about the difference between the “male” and “female” brain. Stereotypes, labels, and "boxes" can hinder more than help in many ways, yet the fact remains that there are differences in the wiring upstairs. I'm curious about this. Dr. Amen argues that women are wired for five special strengths:
- and a little worry
Hmmmmm… there’s a curious overlap between these female superpowers and the feminine traits I shared last time don’t you think? He talks about balancing the dark and light of these traits, explaining how too much of a good thing can lead to increased rates of depression and anxiety in women and other challenges that result from too much worry, a need to control others, and an overpowering sense of responsibility for the world’s challenges – sound familiar at all?
He quotes one research study where over 26,000 healthy age matched male and female SPECT (single-photon emission computerized tomography) scans. It concluded that “women have busy brains; men’s a lot quitter.”
While men’s brains are typically larger overall, what’s more important is which specific parts of the brain are larger. “Females typically have a larger pre-frontal cortex,” which is associated with our five female brain strengths. “Men on the other hand, have larger parietal lobes, which are concerned with the perception of space”.
Another, longitudinal study, that looked at the effects of fetal testosterone on brain and child development concluded that “as fetal testosterone went up, eye contact, empathy and the ability to read what was on someone else’s mind went down.”
Finally Dr. Amen talks about the difference in grey and white matter in the brain in men and women. “Gray matter is composed mainly of brain cell bodies; white matter is made up of brain cell tracks (think communication cables) that provide a connection between the cells.” Overall women tend to have a higher percentage of gray matter compared to males, but also men and women have different percentages of grey and white matter in different parts of the brain. “This means that men are more likely to do localized processing of information, using only a few key areas to work through a problem or task, while women draw on many areas at the same time.”
This is but a scratch at the surface of this issue – there’s a lot more out there about the female brain and brains in general. The overarching message of the book is that brain health matters. Healthy brains make healthy choices; and ultimately eating right, exercising and taking care of one's spiritual and mental health are all key to balancing the special blend of hormones and chemicals that give women their unique gifts – read, help us avoid turning into crazy B*s.
The advice is not new – but the lens is different, eat for your brain and your body will be happy, exercise for your brain and your emotions won’t wreak havoc on you. So how do you take care of your feminine brain? What are your super powers and how do you keep them fully charged?
The Happy V
**All quotes are from - Amen, D. Unleash the Power of the Female Brain: Super charging yours for better health, energy, mood, focus and sex.