This week's list of new releases, springtime fresh, deemed and passed...
The Male Brain
by Louann Brizendine
No wonder Johnny can’t read – it’s that whole "embodied cognition" thing that won’t keep him sitting still. And Dr. Louann Brizendine, the founder of the first clinic in the country to study gender differences in brain, behavior, and hormones, should know, as she demonstrates in her fascinating and fact-filled book The Male Brain, showing how, through every stage of life, "male reality" is essentially different from the female one (well covered in her previously published The Female Brain from 2006). Using data from cognitive neuroscience, genetics, brain imaging, hormonal biology, and primatology, Brizendine backs up many long-noted or suspected observations, including the fact that a man thrives under competition, instinctively plays rough and is obsessed with rank and hierarchy; that he will use his analytical brain structures, not his emotional ones, to find a solution; has an area for sexual pursuit that is larger (2.5 times) than the female brain, consuming him with sexual fantasies. Indeed, Brizendine validates masculine stereotypes ranging from that of the perpetual playboy to the cranky old man, while also considering that tired old commitment-phobic question.
In any case, it all comes down to biology, with the nature-nurture ricochet a reductive back-and-forth whose momentum is largely traceable to the long-running disparity between the fields of psychology and neurobiology — a disparity Brizendine believes is now, finally, being quickly closed from both sides of the divide. It’s an approach that goes toward explaining the nature of irritability in teen, for example when "boys' hormones prime them for aggressive and territorial behaviors"; why behaviors may change so suddenly during puberty, such as 20-fold testosterone increases, among other changes; and the ways in which chemicals, physical touch, and play bond fathers with their children. With carefully detailed and studied elucidations of how characteristics like anger expression, analysis of facial expression, and spatial manipulation differ between the sexes, Brizendine's overview and explication of brain and behavioral research should draw a wide readership, from parents of boys to psychology students to admirers of The Female Brain counterpart.