Understanding what keeps each of us focused.

By Kristyn Krusek Lewis
Updated January 15, 2009
Woman whispering
Credit: Monica Buck

He doesn't have a shorter attention span; women are just biologically wired to pay attention to different things than men are, says Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland, in Annapolis. Researchers have found that male brains tend to be attracted to things that are analytical (sports scores) and visual (Heidi Klum), while female brains focus more on nonverbal and verbal communication (a stimulating conversation).

That said, women deal with attention problems more frequently during their reproductive years because of hormone fluctuations. “New research shows that estrogen impacts brain chemistry and that it’s harder to concentrate when levels are low, like during a premenstrual week, perimenopause, and menopause,” says Nadeau. Pregnancy is more complicated: Estrogen levels are at their peak, so many women experience an increased ability to concentrate. But because pregnancy can also be a time of fatigue and stress, lots of women find it’s harder than ever to focus.