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Sex Differences In The Adult Human Brain: Evidence From 5,216 UK Biobank Participants

By Stuart J. Ritchie, Simon R Cox, Xueyi Shen, Michael V. Lombardo, Lianne Reus, Clara Alloza, Mathew A Harris, Helen L Alderson, Stuart Hunter, Emma Neilson, David C. M. Liewald, Bonnie Auyeung, Heather C. Whalley, Stephen M Lawrie, Catharine Gale, Mark Bastin, Andrew M McIntosh, Ian J Deary

Posted 04 Apr 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/123729 (published DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhy109)

Sex differences in the human brain are of interest, for example because of sex differences in the observed prevalence of psychiatric disorders and in some psychological traits. We report the largest single-sample study of structural and functional sex differences in the human brain (2,750 female, 2,466 male participants; 44-77 years). Males had higher volumes, surface areas, and white matter fractional anisotropy; females had thicker cortices and higher white matter tract complexity. There was considerable distributional overlap between the sexes. Subregional differences were not fully attributable to differences in total volume or height. There was generally greater male variance across structural measures. Functional connectome organization showed stronger connectivity for males in unimodal sensorimotor cortices, and stronger connectivity for females in the default mode network. This large-scale study provides a foundation for attempts to understand the causes and consequences of sex differences in adult brain structure and function.

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