For more than 20 years, Dr. Louane Brizendine has been studying the differences between the male and female brains.

The neuropsychiatrist and author of The Female Brain and The Male Brain writes, “…the female brain has tremendous unique aptitudes — outstanding verbal agility, the ability to connect deeply in friendship, a nearly psychic capacity to read faces and tone of voice for emotions and states of mind, and the ability to defuse conflict.

These differences make women better negotiators and conciliators, and men better fighters and lone wolves…”

Can we read into anything into her work or explanations about the differences between the female and male brain as it relates to open water swimming or endurance sports like triathlons or marathon running?

Probably not, but it is fun to pose some questions:

Does this cerebral aptitude make mothers great marathon swimmers?
Does the mentality of a lone wolf make a man an outstanding channel swimmer?
Does the ability to connect deeply in friendship matter out in a marathon swim?

In a mature woman’s brain, Dr. Brizendine says the hippocampus — or the memory center — is larger than in the male brain.

This area helps people remember the details of an emotional occurrence. “For example, women may remember all kinds of fights they had with their husband that he may not even remember happened at all,” she says. With swimming being such a mental game that deeply touches the emotions of those who interact well – or badly – with Mother Nature, could a larger hippocampus mean that women can remember more details about certain situations that occur in the open water?

The doctor also knows that the anterior cingulate cortex is also larger in the female brain. Dr. Brizendine calls this part of the brain the worrywort center. “This may be one reason that men don’t worry as much as women do,” she says. So while a woman might remember more, she also has the capacity to worry more which might or might not be a good thing on a long, arduous swim.

American television personality and one of America’s favorite physicians Dr. Oz says that a woman’s brain also shrinks by about 8% during pregnancy. “You don’t lose cells. The cells get smaller,” he says. “It might be because you’re focused on one thing, but the good news is after you give birth, your brain begins to rewire quickly. … Your brain actually gets more powerful than before you got pregnant.”

If one’s brain gets more powerful as a result of pregnancy, and the sport of marathon swimming is at least 80% mental, then logic might lead one to conclude that there are definitive physiological reasons why mothers make great marathon swimmers.

Something to think about.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Source