Man and Woman: An Inside Story

Man and Woman: An Inside Story

by Donald W. Pfaff, PhD
     
 

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The saga of sex differences in brain and behavior begins with a tiny sperm swimming toward a huge egg, to contribute its tiny Y chromosome plus its copies of the other chromosomes. Genetic, anatomic and physiologic alterations in the male ensue, making his brain and behavior different in specific respects from his sister. Brain-wise, specific cell groups develop

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Overview

The saga of sex differences in brain and behavior begins with a tiny sperm swimming toward a huge egg, to contribute its tiny Y chromosome plus its copies of the other chromosomes. Genetic, anatomic and physiologic alterations in the male ensue, making his brain and behavior different in specific respects from his sister. Brain-wise, specific cell groups develop differently in males compared to females, in some cases right after birth and in other cases at puberty. But genetics and neuroanatomy do not dominate the scene. Prenatal stress, postnatal stress and lousy treatment at puberty all can affect males and females in different ways. The upshot of all these genetic and environmental factors produces small sex differences in certain abilities and huge sex differences in feelings, in pain and in suffering. Put this all together and the reader will see that biological and cultural influences on gender roles operate at so many different levels to influence behavioral mechanisms that gender role choices are flexible, reversible and non-dichotomous, especially in modern societies.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The take-away from this abbreviated look at sex and gender differences is simply stated at the outset: "biological influences on sex differences in brain and behavior operate at so many different levels, and they interact with environmental influences in so many different ways, that rigid, stereotyped ideas about what is and is not typical male or typical female behavior have become impossible to sustain." Pfaff, a neurobiologist at Rockefeller University, has been a major player in the field; indeed, much of what he discusses originally came from research conducted in his laboratory. Despite this expertise, Pfaff struggles to make his point because he covers too many topics without devoting enough space to any of them. Although he addresses fascinating subjects including sex determination, hormonal influences on behavior, causes and treatment of autism, and the treatment of developmental abnormalities in genitalia, most of his discussion is technical and remarkably truncated, thus not readily accessible to the general audience. Pfaff covers some of the same ground as Rebecca Jordan-Young's recently released and outstanding Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, but not nearly with the same depth and panache. 70 b&w line drawings. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
"This is an absolutely fascinating book, written in an engaging style wherever possible." —PsychCentral

"Any writer brave enough to take on this subject needs to be meticulous and unflaggingly skeptical in his or her approach EL Mr. Pfaff is the right man for the job." —The Economist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195388848
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/24/2010
Pages:
232
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Donald W. Pfaff graduated from Harvard College magna cum laude and received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1965. He joined The Rockefeller University in 1966 as a postdoctoral fellow and was named assistant professor in 1969. He was granted tenure in 1973 and promoted to full professor in 1978.
Dr. Pfaff is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as editor, or on the editorial board, of 21 journals and is author or co-author of more than 800 scientific articles. Dr. Pfaff has also authored, or co-authored, 18 books, all of which deal with brain and behavior. He is the recipient of a National Institutes of Health MERIT Award (2003 to 2013) and received the 2010 Foundation Ipsen Neuronal Plasticity Prize for his studies on the neuroendocrine control of behavior.

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