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J Child Neurol. 1999 Feb;14(2):98-107.

Gender differences in the human cerebral cortex: more neurons in males; more processes in females.

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University of Lausanne, Switzerland.


This study's objective was to investigate morphometric gender differences of the cerebral cortex in six males and five females, 12 to 24 years old. Though human brains lack sexual dimorphism on routine neuropathologic examinations, gender-specific brain weight, functional, and morphologic differences exist, suggesting that cortical differences may be found. Yet the cerebral cortex may be exempt from gender differences, as demonstrated by the fact that normal males and females perform comparably on intelligence tests. Stereologic morphometry on standardized histologic sections from 30 bilateral cortical loci determined cortical thickness, neuronal density, and derived neuronal number estimates. The mean +/- SD cortical thickness of the 60 loci examined was similar in males and females with right and left hemispheric gender ratios being balanced. In contrast, the average neuronal density of the same 60 loci was significantly higher in the male group than in the female group, and the corresponding mean male-to-female ratios were 1.18 in the right and 1.13 in the left hemisphere, which differ significantly from each other and from the balanced cortical thickness ratios. Estimates of neuronal numbers -- the product of neuronal thickness times density -- were 13% higher in males than in females, with mean male-to-female ratios of 1.13 in both hemispheres. The data provide morphologic evidence of considerable cerebral cortical dimorphism with the demonstration of significantly higher neuronal densities and neuronal number estimates in males, though with similar mean cortical thickness, implying a reciprocal increase in neuropil/neuronal processes in the female cortex.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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