Moms

Two audiobooks for the two sexes

Every couple should listen to these books

The Male Brain

By Louann Brizendine, M.D.

Read by Kimberly Farr

Random House Audio

4 CDs, unabridged, about 4 1/2 hours

and

The Female Brain

By Louann Brizendine, M.D.

Read by the author

Random House Audio

Unabridged; published in 2007; available only as a download at iTunes, audible.com and other audiobook download retailers

What it's about: Louann Brizendine is a practicing clinical psychiatrist and an endowed professor at the University of California, San Francisco. She uses new knowledge from the fields of neuroscience and behavioral endocrinology to explain the unique qualities of the brain when it comes to the sexes. Often, some profound differences between the male and female brains and how they function can lead to relationship problems. The Male Brain, the new book, is a companion to 2007's The Female Brain. While they are not traditional self-help books because they focus on research and examples rather than advice, they provide a fascinating glimpse into our own brains and the minds of the other half of humanity.

Why listen: I had a lot of ah-ha moments listening to these books. While it hasn't been politically correct to say it for decades, there are physical differences between the brains that, well, make men and women see the world from completely different perspectives. Neither is better than the other, of course. Men, for example, have 21/2 times the brain space for sexual pursuit that women do. Women, on the other hand, have a much bigger area for communication than men do. The two "species," as I am almost inclined to call them after listening to these audiobooks, also have different centers in the brain for processing emotion. Men want to solve problems. Women want to be understood. Another interesting fact: Men have a "monogamy" gene -- the longer this gene is, the more likely the man will be content in a relationship.

What's especially interesting is the roles that hormones play in our brain development as we mature. I found it fascinating, for example, that the Mommy Brain develops a kind of internal GPS system for its offspring -- she is always tracking her kid in her mind and thinking about where he is. It does not start to turn off until the child actually leaves the home and the mother no longer is smelling her child on a daily basis. Lots of life developments -- having a baby and having skin-to-skin contact with that baby, for one -- marinate both the male and female brains in oxytocin and dopamine, "feel-good" hormones that then create new circuits and even superhighways for your next productive phase of life.

All couples, I think, should read both of these books -- same-sex couples could listen to just the one that pertains to them, of course. It's a great inroad to understanding ourselves and others. For example, when he wonders, "Why isn't she interested in me physically tonight?" he can read about how it can take up to 24 hours for a woman to shut off her amygdala worry-center and truly relax. (Men don't have this problem.) And when she wonders, "Why isn't he listening to me?" she may realize that brain-wise, he simply, at that moment, cannot.

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