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The Male Brain

an interview with Daniel Amen, M.D.

E-Newsletter No. 59

The Male Brain
The View

The daytime television show The View did a whole program on the male brain. I was interviewed by Elisabeth Hasselback, Star Jones, Meredith Vieira, and Joy Behar all at the same time. This contentious group wanted to know why men and women were so different. My segment was on after actor Donnie Deustch, whom the girls just roasted. They asked him how many times he had been married, which was twice, and why his marriages had failed, he didn’t know, and whether or not he cheated on his wives, no, and what his problem was, did they have a shrink’s coach nearby. Wow! It seemed some of the interviewers woke up on the wrong side of men that morning.

My interview covered nine questions. They were easier on me, because I think they knew less about the brain than how to torture men. I have included the questions here because they are typical questions women ask about men.

1. The interview with me started out with Elisabeth Hasselback asking, “Is there really a difference between a man’s and woman’s brain?”
I had trouble talking because Elisabeth is stunning. Since the man’s brain is 50% visual, I was very distracted. Gathering my composure, I said, “Huge differences, and we can prove it.” Here I pointed to a set of brain scans we did of a couple at my clinic. “Typically, the woman’s brain is very active, like the one shown here. Thinking, thinking, thinking, especially in the emotional part of the brain. The man’s brain, by comparison, is relatively quiet. A woman’s brain is always working and a man’s brain needs stimulation.”  Meredith chimed in, “Seems like little is happening in the male brain.”

2. “Let’s get down to specifics. Why do men think about sex all the time?”
The part of the brain responsive to sex hormones is two and a half times larger in men than women. Men are programmed to be more responsive to sexual feelings. Plus, with the lower activity in the brain men are looking for excitement and stimulation. What is more stimulating to think about than sex?

3. “You say there is a way you can tell which men have more testosterone than others. How?”
According to University of Liverpool researcher John Manning, the size of your ring fingers and genitals are related to how much testosterone you received in the womb; the higher the testosterone level, the longer they are. In fact, looking at the length of ring fingers in comparison to index fingers will give an idea of the size of a man’s penis. If the ring fingers are longer, it means there was healthy testosterone levels; if they are the same size or smaller it means there were lowered levels. Women can estimate the length of a man’s penis by saying, “Show me your hands.” Those who have unusually long ring fingers (indicating high testosterone) are at greater risk for autism, dyslexia, stuttering and immune dysfunction. A large member may not be all that great. On the other hand, a male with unusually short ring fingers is at higher risk for heart disease and infertility. Size matters, but it can go both ways.

4. “Why don’t men need foreplay like women do?”
“Men are always ready for excitement. With the lower activity levels in our brain, and higher testosterone levels, it takes little to get us going. We are always idling, waiting to be taken for a ride. Women, on the other hand, have so much going on in their brains that they need to be soothed, courted, and encouraged to be in the mood. They need a method to calm down their brains.”

5. “Why don’t men ask for directions when they are lost?”
“Men do not know that they are lost, even if they have passed the same gas station four times. Men have less access to the right hemisphere, which gives them the big picture of gestalt of a situation. The right hemisphere allows people to know when a problem exists. Since men have less access, they are often in the dark when something is wrong. It happens in many other situations besides driving, such as admitting that there is trouble in a relationship (75% of the time women are the ones who file for divorce or leave a relationship). Men are also singularly focused on finding their way. Admitting that you are lost is admitting failure, some thing men are very poor at doing.

6. “Why don’t men gossip?”
    Men do gossip, just not as much as women. Men have language exclusively on the left side of the brain, while women have language on both sides. Women have more to say because more areas of the brain are dedicated to language. Men are also more interested in sports than in emotional relationships. Sport talk shows are very popular sources of gossip for men. In conversations, men often get lost in the amount of words used by women. When it comes to parenting, using fewer words is actually helpful. As a child psychiatrist, I have seen that children usually listen to their fathers more often than their mothers. In large part, it is because men use fewer words than women and they are more serious about consequences to negative behavior. Mothers want children to understand, they want to be relational with them; fathers want children to comply, like listening to the coach during a ball game.

7. “Why can’t a man let go of the remote control?”
    “With the lower overall brain function, a man needs more stimulation. As he flips through channels, he is often looking for something new, something different, something exciting. A woman is often content watching a single program, with a relational story line where characters show emotions. She likes to predict what will happen next and needs the continuity to stay interested. The remote control allows a man to surf the wild looking for fair game. Men also have shorter attention spans than women. Men are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) five times more than women.

8. “A recent survey came out and it said that men lie more than women, but that women are actually better liars. Why is that?”
    Given the lower brain function, especially in the front part of the brain (also associated with the higher incidence of ADHD), men tend to be more impulsive than women. They tend to have more affairs and tend to say things without fully thinking it through, and often find themselves in hot water. Women also lie, but they get caught less. One reason, as I mentioned earlier, is that women have better access to the right hemisphere and thus read social cues better than men. They notice the small things, like looking away or down or clearing your throat, that are typical in people who are not telling the truth. Since men tend to be in denial a lot of the time, they do not see when their partner is lying.”

9. “Why don’t men remember dates like birthdays and anniversaries?”
“Men are men. As such they are thinking about providing for their families, competing with other men, and sex. Opposed to women who are thinking, thinking, thinking about the relationship, men are busy doing. This does not mean they love less, they just love like men. This often causes them to forget important dates, even though they try hard not to.”

Rules for Men on Women and for Women on Men
    Given the latest neuroscience research, here are seven rules to help men and women better understand and navigate the brain differences between the sexes.

Rules for Men on Women

1.    Recognize women are very different from you. Ask her what she needs to be happy and listen. Remember they leave the relationship 75% of the time.
2.    Women typically need listening, not solutions (she is already competent)
3.    Never ask a woman to get to the point.
4.    She needs time, talking, and nonsexual touch for foreplay.
5.    Just because she catches you ogling another woman does not mean she is not ogling another guy.
6.    On a long trip do the night driving, usually your night vision is better than hers.
7.    She thinks it is sexy if you ask for directions. You win her heart by being willing to ask for help.
8.    She has a keener sense of smell. Find out the smells she likes. Does she like it if you take a shower before bed, or does she like it if you don’t? Check it out.

Rules for Women on Men

1.    Recognize men are very different from you. Ask him what he needs to be happy.
2.    He can only do one thing at a time, when you want to talk to him wait until the game is over and ask for a specific time to talk.
3.    Never try to get a man to admit to losing a fight.
4.    If you want him to really listen try to use fewer words.
5.    He is programmed to compete and win, make him think he wins a lot.
6.    Just because you catch a guy ogling a woman does not mean you do not do it as well.
7.    On a long trip do the day driving.
8.    Many of his senses are not as keen as yours.

Dr Amen's web site:

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