Podcast #410: The Male Brain

There’s a common argument out there that gender differences are just the product of socialization. Implicitly and explicitly, the argument goes, culture tells men and women how men and women should behave.

My guest today argues that the drivers of male and female behavior are little more complex than that. In fact, about 50% of the differences between men and women are rooted in our biology, beginning with how our respective brains form in utero. 

Her name is Louann Brizendine. She’s a neuropsychiatrist, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and the author of two books: The Female Brain and The Male Brain. Today we discuss that latter work, and the trajectory the male brain takes from prenatal life through old age.

We begin our conversation discussing how a megadose of testosterone in the womb wires a male brain differently from a female brain and how that influences how boys socialize and learn during childhood. Louann then discusses how the male brain is re-structured again with another megadose of testosterone during puberty and the impact that has on a teen’s behavior. She then walks us through what happens to the male brain when a man falls in love, has kids, and enters mature adulthood. 

Consider this podcast an intro guide to how your brain works (assuming you’re a dude listening to this, though female listeners will also get some insights into why the males in their lives act the way they do).

Show Highlights

  • Are gender differences biological or cultural or both?
  • How little girls and little boys play differently 
  • What is “infantile puberty”?
  • The hormones that influence male and female brains 
  • What are these hormones doing during childhood?
  • How do boys learn differently?
  • Why are little boys more sensitive than little girls?
  • How do boys and girls socialize differently? 
  • We know the physical changes that come with puberty, but what about changes in the brain?
  • Boys and natural social hierarchies 
  • Why do boys tend to disengage in school more than girls?
  • Why parents should actually let their teenagers sleep in 
  • How video games get boys’ attention 
  • What happens to the male brain when he falls in love? Why do men fall in love faster?
  • What happens to the male brain when he becomes a father? Why does testosterone drop?
  • Testosterone in older men and “andropause” 
  • Testosterone Replacement Therapy in older men 

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