September 14, 2020
Unlocking the Feminine Brain
Women are yet to appreciate how amazing their bodies are. By diving deeper into understanding the inner workings of the human brain, it’s evident that there are prominent differences between the male and female brain. The female brain has a larger prefrontal cortex, for making executive decisions, a larger insula, containing gut intuition, larger hippocampus, entailing better memory, bigger corpus callosum, allowing for improved evaluation, and a smaller amygdala, meaning women do not have as quick of a fear-based emotional response.
Simply put, the female brain has superior qualities.
But the biological rhythms and cycles are often overlooked.
Male Brain From Mars, Female Brain From Venus*
The human brain consists of two hemispheres, each attributed to certain ways of thinking. In early-stage development, the brain develops from the right to the left hemisphere, the reason why children acquire gross motor skills (right brain) before their fine motor skills (left brain).
The left hemisphere is known to be affiliated with linear, mathematical, strategic kind of thinking and is called the “male side of the brain”. This does not mean that women cannot be mathematical or strategic. You’ll understand the difference later in this article. One of the four main neurotransmitters, dopamine, rules the left side of the brain. It’s our motivator. Recall that rush you get when you check something off your to-do list? That’s dopamine doing its thing. What distinguishes it from the others is that we can control it.
On the other hand, the right brain is much more sensual, creative, artistic, etc. and often labeled the “female side of the brain”. Again, these traits aren’t exclusive to females. The neurotransmitter that dominates the right side of the brain is serotonin. The key with serotonin is that you cannot raise your own serotonin levels but rather rely on external triggers like positive reinforcement to do so. When serotonin levels are raised, dopamine levels are also raised.
The dimorphism between the male and female brain is that males have twice as many serotonergic receptors in the brain than females do. Therefore, women need twice as much positive reinforcement from their external environment to reach comparable serotonin levels.
This is important and often goes unrecognized as serotonin drives motivation. This is especially important for good leaders to consider when contemplating how to best motivate their team. Not everyone is the same. Personalized treatment is what works best. It’s about the people. This is a key lesson I learned through managing teams and understanding how to leverage each team member’s strengths to our advantage.
This also goes to show that a lot of personal development relies on the relationships you have in your life. It’s so important to be deliberate about who you surround yourself with. Your mirror neurons fire to mimic the attitudes of those around you. So really, when they say you have to love yourself before you can love others, from a neurological standpoint, they’re wrong. You should love others to help you love yourself.
Ever Heard of the Infradian Rhythm?
Many of us know that our biological cycles influence our brain health. Especially the circadian rhythm. However, there’s another rhythm that women need to know about. That they often don’t know about. We need to change this.
The infradian rhythm.
Men are solely affected by the circadian rhythm that runs for 24 hours. Whereas women have the ultradian rhythm, running for less than a day, then their infradian rhythm lasting throughout their 28-day cycle. This rhythm alters brain chemistry by up to 25%. The problem is that women don’t know about this second biological cycle and how to take care of it for their own benefit. The main cause of their neuroendocrine disruption. This is what negatively impacts brain performance. In other words, women aren’t eating, exercising, organizing their lives in ways that support this rhythm. Causing this disruption.
To break it down further, this cycle consists of four hormonal stages of hormonal patterns that require women to change how they’re living to keep stress at bay and support the brain’s wellbeing. The four stages being the follicular phase, the menstrual phase, the ovulatory phase, and the luteal phase. In these four phases, there is a distinct ratio of estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (FSH), and testosterone, that all change in predictable and dependable ways throughout the month. As long as hormones are balanced and the infradian rhythm is being taken care of. The main issue, however, is that over 50% of women struggle with hormonal problems as they’re getting sick, stressed, on top of the negligence of their infradian cycle.
During these phases, there are tasks that best suit your brain’s natural proclivities; this is how women are to leverage this alternate cycle and unlock the unlimited potential of the female brain.
Simply put, follicular → initiation of any project, ovulatory → collaboration, luteal → completion, menstrual → evaluation.
An overarching problem is that the cultural narrative around women’s cycles, hormones, brain chemistries, is a negative one. Women are therefore said to be “unpredictable, unreliable, hormonal, etc.”. Men are governed by hormones in a 24 hour period rather than a 28 day period. This is fact. So, men are just as hormonal as women. But it comes down to what the story being propagated insinuates.
Women are now discovering ways to leverage their infradian rhythm to make motherhood more sustainable. There are ways in which this can be managed to better cope with mental health conditions like baby blues, postpartum depression, etc.
This got me thinking.
I’ve been striving to challenge the current universalized treatments for depression and other similar conditions to provide technology-based personalized solutions. But I failed to realize that there are influencing factors beyond the brain chemistry that individualize people’s brains. This must be considered. This was transformative for me to understand as I venture into working on solutions for neuropsychiatric conditions like depression and anxiety.
*Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. Written by John Gray, Ph.D. 1992