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Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Wouldn't it be a relief to finally understand what is happening behind her pretty eyes? Why is it, for example, that the woman in your life is serene one moment, apocalyptic the next? How can she remember details about your life you don't even recall? And what's with her taking everything so personally? Chalk it up to female brain chemistry. Here's how to tailor your courtship to her cortex, hippocampus, etc.
Pay attention to the little things
She'll see shades of meaning in small gestures, because significant regions of the cortex — the outer layer of a brain that conducts much of its high-level computing — are thicker in the ladies. Therefore, an off-hand comment like, "I'd rather watch the game" might say more than you meant it to. Likewise, a small act of kindness (from a kiss on the cheek to simply calling ahead to make reservations) will blow her away because she'll consider both the gesture and the thoughtfulness behind the gesture.
To keep up with her memory, take notes
It's a scientific fact: Women remember everything. The hippocampus takes up a larger percent of the female brain than the male brain, which is good to know because it's where memories are formed. So while you remember, maybe, the day you met, she's recorded your first flirtation, first phone call, first date, first kiss, etc. Bottom line? There's a reason the PDA and the Google calendar were invented: Use these electronic tools to keep up with her mighty hippocampus.
Follow her calm lead versus instigating bar fights
She's much better at reining in her aggressive impulses than you are. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania measured the size of the orbitofrontal cortex, an area of the brain involved in regulating emotions. They then compared it with the size of the amygdala, which creates emotional reactions to events. They discovered that female brains have a much larger orbitofrontal-to-amygdala ratio (OAR) than male brains do. That suggests women are better than guys at responding calmly to rudeness or aggression. "The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is the main ‘modulator' of amygdala action," explains researcher Ruben Gur. "So if you are at a party and someone insults you, the amygdala, which is a very primitive and old structure in human brains, will be yelling ‘Kill the guy!' The OFC is the part of the brain that will say: ‘Consider the context; there are people around.'" Thus, if you want to impress her, quiet your own amygdala and behave as gracefully as she does.
Write her a poem or at least a cute email
"Women excel in something called verbal fluency, or being able to come up with appropriate words, given cues," says Dr. Larry Cahill of the University of California at Irvine. In general, women's brains are wired to be more language-centric than men's. Researchers at McMaster University found that female brains have a greater density of neurons in parts of the temporal lobe cortex, which is the area of the brain associated with language processing and comprehension. This could help explain why women often know the right thing to say, send great cards and love notes, and choose words with such care. In wooing a love interest, it wouldn't hurt to get the help of a trusted female friend. She'll know just what to say.
Be her serotonin
Women's brains produce significantly less serotonin — the brain chemical that helps make us happy — than male brains do. So if she has a tough day at work, treat to her to a transfusion: Try a pep talk, soothing back rub or long hug.
Women have puzzled over it for years—why the heck do men do the things they do? Why do they profess their love for you one minute, then ignore you the next (say, when an Attila the Hun special turns up on TV)? Why can they not remember our birthdays? Let science explain some of these conundrums—and help you rev up your relationships!
Don't expect him to get hints: Have a crush on him? You may have to put it out there, because men aren't as skilled at women at reading subtle emotional cues. As Dr. Larry Cahill of the University of California at Irvine puts it, "We have been assuming that the ways in which emotions are organized in the brain are essentially similar in men and women," but they aren't. Parts of the limbic cortex, which is involved in emotional responses, are smaller in men than in women. Additionally, scientists at McMaster University have found that guys have a smaller density of neurons in areas of the temporal lobe that deal with language processing. That's why it's probably a good idea to tell him straight-up how you're feeling ("I'm kind of hurt that you forgot I hate sushi"). Expecting him to infer from your hints could leave both of you scratching your heads.
Don't take conversation lulls personally: Fact is, guys in general just aren't as verbally adept as women are. Large parts of the cortex — the brain's outer layer that does a big part of recognizing and using subtle language cues — are thinner in men than they are in women. A study led by Dr. Godfrey Pearlson of Johns Hopkins University has shown that two areas in the frontal and temporal lobes that play an important role in language processing are significantly smaller in men. Using MRIs, the Johns Hopkins scientists measured gray matter volumes in several brain regions in 17 females and 43 males. Women had 23 percent more volume than men in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and 13 percent more volume than men in the superior temporal cortex. "Women," explains Dr. Cahill, "excel in being able to come up with appropriate words, given cues." Men — not so much. Don't expect him to chatter with you on dates with the skill of a girlfriend, and don't assume he's not interested in you if he occasionally lets the conversation lapse. Think of it this way: He's simply basking in moments of quiet companionship.
Don't expect his take on your relationship history to match yours: He may be incapable of seeing your shared past the way you do. Brain images have started to show that men and women use their brains in vastly different ways. For example, women use the left part of the amygdala — the part of the brain that creates emotional reactions to events — to put memories in order by emotional strength, meaning that something emotionally important to them (like a great first date a couple of months ago) will be ordered in front of what they ate for breakfast yesterday. Men, however, use the right part of the amygdala to put memories in order. Traditionally, the right hemisphere of the brain is associated with the central action of an event, while the left hemisphere is associated with finer details. Translation: You'll both remember your first date, but he might not remember the color of your sweater or the light rain that was falling that night. It doesn't mean he was checked out; it just means he's a guy.
Remember his brain is his largest sex organ: In males of several species including humans, the preoptic area of the hypothalamus is greater in volume, in cross-sectional area and in the number of cells. In men, this area is more than two times larger than in women, and it contains twice as many cells. And what, say you, does this have to do with the horizontal mambo? Plenty. This area of the hypothalamus is in charge of mating behavior.