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Mouse MRI shows brain areas larger in males emerge earlier than those larger in females

By Lily R. Qiu, Darren J Fernandes, Kamila U. Szulc, Jun Dazai, Brian J Nieman, Daniel H Turnbull, Mark R Palmert, Jason P Lerch

Posted 04 Aug 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/172841

Sex differences exist in behaviours, disease and neuropsychiatric disorders. Sexual dimorphisms however, have yet to be studied across the whole brain and across a comprehensive time course of postnatal development. We used manganese-enhanced MRI (MEMRI) to longitudinally image male and female C57BL/6J mice across 9 time points, beginning at postnatal day 3. We recapitulated findings on canonically dimorphic areas, demonstrating the ability of MEMRI to study neuroanatomical sex differences. We discovered, upon whole-brain volume correction, that neuroanatomical regions larger in males develop early in life, while regions larger in females develop in peripubertal life. Furthermore, we found groups of areas with shared sexually dimorphic developmental trajectories that reflect behavioural and functional networks, and expression of genes involved with sex processes. Our results demonstrate the ability of MEMRI to reveal comprehensive developmental differences between male and female brains, which will improve our understanding of sex-specific predispositions to various neuropsychiatric disorders.

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