Long before it works its turbulent magic at puberty, long before we are even born, estrogen leaves its indelible mark on our mental functions. Not only does it help sculpt the brain during the earliest stages of development; it also continues to play a role in learning and memory throughout life. Subtle differences between the male and female brain can be traced to the influences of estrogen and testosterone in the womb. (While all fetuses are exposed to their mother's estrogen, male fetuses produce testosterone in their testes by the 12th week of gestation.) Particularly affected is the hypothalamus, a walnut-size...

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