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Live the Difference

Just a little instant info on male/female brain differences. A fascinating subject.

Male brains have a smaller hippocampus, which forms initial memories. Men, per their brains, don't sweat the small stuff. They hardly notice it. Some piece of jewelry, her eye-color ... um, what? It's not personal. An area in the limbic cortex, involved with emotional responses, is also smaller in men, and the region of the temporal lobe that processes language has a smaller density of neurons. So not only do they feel less, but they can't talk about it. Uh, yeah.

The male cortex -- the outer layer of the brain -- is thinner in many places, affecting comprehension and the processing of language cues. Specifically, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex has almost 25% less volume in men, and there's 13% less volume in the superior temporal cortex. Females seem to devote these thicker cortex areas to noticing and calculating the meaning of clueless behavior in males -- what does it mean, his failure to remember that this is the 15th-week anniversary of when we bought the sofa?!

Females prioritize memories according to emotional strength, relying on the left side of the amygdala, which determines affective responses to events. Men organize memories using the right-brain amygdala, which focuses on the central action and meaning of an event, rather than its finer details. This makes it sound like men might be less emotional. But the ratio between the amygdala and the, ahem, orbitofrontal cortex is much larger in women. The orbitofrontal cortex modulates the emotions the amygdala creates. So women may be more emotional to events, but they control those emotions better, in terms of determinative responses. They are calmer in the face of barroom boorishness.

On the up side, male brains produce over 50% more serotonin, a mood-influencing neurotransmitter, enabling men to deal more calmly with stress -- on average. And the preoptic region of the hypothalmus is larger by all measures in men than women. Twice as large. This is the part of the brain, one of them, that deals with mating behaviour. Yeah! It hooks up -- yeah! -- to the pituitary, which releases sex hormones. Yeah! Go, that long preop hypo word! Yeah!!!

So that's one of the major male/female differences. The brain. Another is the body. Bodybuilding, that sad, sad phenomenon, is doing what it can to blur the differences. Who knows, maybe that's a good thing? Thus, the TLC documentary called Supersize She. Female bodybuilders. Focus, very closely, on a female bodybuilder named ... well, who noticed. Joanna something. A figure not entirely mannish. Yet. Bosoms not completely gone. Steroidal face and voice. Skin like desert leather, beetle-brown body over a creped face pale as disease. Star of a sport identical in spirit to competitive eating. Excess and perversion. It would not exist without Big Pharma.

Then there's the bodybuilder woman from Napoleon Dynamite. The sensi's wife or whatever. Turns out she really was a woman. Who knew. Surprising.

We probably may all pretty much agree that, over all, it's a good thing that there are gender differences. But whether or not it's a good thing, it's a real thing. There are anomalies and overlappings of bell-shaped curves, but generally things fall within certain well-established parameters.

Not health nor fitness is about size. Neither is excellence. Maturity gauges itself by what is reasonable, and understands that there are natural biological limits that really ought not to be overcome by either drugs or fanatical effort. Most men really don't want to look like Arnold -- they want to be strong and skillful. Most women want to be thought lovely and to feel healthy. It's about being physically competent. That's excellence. Freakshows are politically incorrect, nowadays, and rightly so. Except in the gym.

Balance. Common sense. Not wasting time on half-baked theories that, even if they worked, would take you where you don't really want to be. Where should we put our effort? Where it will do some good.

Be excellent.


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