Posted by: Admin | November 18, 2010

Blame the brain!

Louann Brizendine, MD published “The Female Brain” in 2008. In it, she explains the real difference between the male and female brain: unlike the male brain, a woman’s has what she describes as a “uniquely flexible structure” that is in a “constant, dynamic state of change”. Oo-er – does that ring any bells with you, ladies?


photograph by Kate Hopewell-Smith

Which of us doesn’t know of at least one menopausal woman who suddenly steps outside the familiarity of hearth and home and starts again – alone? Maybe you are that woman, either practically or metaphorically? Personally, my experience is of the latter – part of my purpose in starting to write this blog was to satisfy an urge to re-establish myself as an individual in my own right after years of (quite happily) nurturing others.

According to Brizendine, this often shocking development can be attributed not just to psychology, but to a measurable biological reaction in the mature female brain. The ebb and flow of hormones through a woman’s menstrual cycle are designed to ignite her nurturing impulses, to tune her in to every nuance of emotion and are designed to flood the brain with oxytocin and dopamine, the feel-good hormones that reward her for performing her caring role. Once the rocky years leading up to menopause  are over, however, there is more constancy in the flow of impulses through her brain. The result? The mature woman’s brain becomes more like a man’s.

“Starting at about age 43, the female brain becomes less sensitive to oestrogen, touching off a cascade of symptoms that can vary from month to month and year to year, ranging from hot flashes and joint pain to anxiety and depression…The level of oestrogen drops as does that of testosterone – the rocket fuel for sex drive.” (Conversely, some women find a new “zest” for life and bcome rampant. I think that’s the medical term.)”The 24 months before menopause… can be a rocky ride for some women.”

You think? Why does no one tell us this stuff? Even doctors write prescriptions for anti-depressants and without explanation. Maybe if we knew we were likely to

It's not "naughty" but "necessary"!

feel like adolescent girls (without the fun, as Brizendine puts it) at least we wouldn’t feel as if we were going mad. Incidentally, the brain also has been shown to have a dramatically altered response to glucose at this time, causing cravings for sugar and carbs. So even greed can be blamed on hormones!

During the menopause, we start to “unplug” our “mummy brains” and often look for personal fulfilment beyond our families. Brizendine warns that for those of us in long relationships it is important to question whether hormones play a part in any discontent we might feel – blaming our partners and leaving home is often akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. Although men undergo hormonal changes of their own, they do not experience the sudden, dramatic changes that we do and they can be left feeling bewildered. Not half as bewildered as us though, I would suggest!

For what happens when we get our new man-brains? We start to get selfish, that’s what, and about bloody time! Once we start to emerge from the hormonal minefield the new, calmer biology in the female brain can be a blessing if we let it be so. The biology of the mature brain helps us to let our children go and, at the same time, turn our attention to other interests. Now is the perfect time to learn something new, change career and generally reassess what we want from the rest of our lives.

And if you want to understand what’s happening to yourneural pathways, read this book. You too, guys – it might actually give you an insight into the way women think, or at least explain why they appear (?!) to be erratic.



  1. What an interesting post!

  2. Some men know this.
    Many women don’t.
    And they hate men that do.
    One of the many mysteries of life.
    Men run the world but if women ever figure out why and how their own bodies work then men are doomed.
    My advice to all men is:
    The day is coming. Be entertaining, be fun, be sympathetic and maybe you’ll be kept as a pet because we are certainly not necessary.

  3. So now it all becomes clearer, Im not going mad , Im just like all the other women of my age!! ps. Love the advice by Oldfool!!!!

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