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Neuroimage. 2009 Aug 1;47(1):342-52. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.04.042. Epub 2009 Apr 17.

Gender differences in the functional and structural neuroanatomy of mathematical cognition.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Despite ongoing debate about the nature of gender differences in mathematics achievement, little is known about gender similarities and differences in mathematical cognition at the neural level. We used fMRI to compare brain responses in 25 females and 24 males during a mental arithmetic task involving 3-operand addition and subtraction. We also used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to examine gender differences in brain structure. Although females and males did not differ in accuracy or response times (effect size d<0.3), significant gender differences in functional brain activation were observed in the right dorsal and ventral visuospatial information processing streams (d>1.1). Males showed greater dorsal stream activation in the right intra-parietal sulcus areas important for numerical cognition, and angular gyrus regions of the default mode network that are typically deactivated during complex cognitive tasks, as well as greater ventral stream activation in the right lingual and parahippocampal gyri. VBM revealed an opposite pattern of gender differences-compared to males, females had greater regional density and greater regional volume in dorsal and ventral stream regions where males showed greater fMRI activation. There were no brain areas where females showed greater functional activation than males, and no brain areas where males showed greater structural density or volume than females. Our findings provide evidence for gender differences in the functional and structural organization of the right hemisphere brain areas involved in mathematical cognition. Together with the lack of behavioral differences, our results point to more efficient use of neural processing resources in females.

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