complementary differences

Hormones and behaviour in gender

The hormonal flow is regulated by the part of the brain which researchers first noticed was different in men and women – the hypothalamus. And, depending on wether you are a man or a woman, it organises your hormones in correspondingly different way. Briefly, it tells the pituitary gland to give instructions to open and close the valve for the sex hormones.

In men, its job is to keep the hormone levels fairy constant. It operates like a thermostat; if the blood-stream is “hotting-up” with too much testosterone, the message goes out to “cool it”, and diminish the flow. Scientists call this process “negative feedback”, and it results in a fairly constant hormone level.

But in women, things are different. Operating on what is called “positive feedback”, the hypothalamus-pituitary command system sometimes  seems to behave like a lunatic in charge of a flood barrier; when the water rises, instead of closing the gates he opens them wider. This leads to wide fluctuations in hormone concentrations in women – and sometimes great fluctuations in female behaviour.

While the male hypothalamus is concerned with keeping things constant, that of the female is conspiring to create a system of phases, or cycles. These occur in regular patterns roughly ever twenty-eight days.

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