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Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2009;15(4):318-27. doi: 10.1002/ddrr.86.

Effects of sex chromosome aneuploidies on brain development: evidence from neuroimaging studies.

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Child Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Variation in the number of sex chromosomes is a relatively common genetic condition, affecting as many as 1/400 individuals. The sex chromosome aneuploidies (SCAs) are associated with characteristic behavioral and cognitive phenotypes, although the degree to which specific individuals are affected can fall within a wide range. Understanding the effects of different dosages of sex chromosome genes on brain development may help to understand the basis for functional differences in affected individuals. It may also be informative regarding how sex chromosomes contribute to typical sexual differentiation. Studies of 47,XXY males make up the bulk of the current literature of neuroimaging studies in individuals with supernumerary sex chromosomes, with a few small studies or case reports of the other SCAs. Findings in 47,XXY males typically include decreased gray and white matter volumes, with most pronounced effects in the frontal and temporal lobes. Functional studies have shown evidence of decreased lateralization. Although the hypogonadism typically found in 47,XXY males may contribute to the decreased brain volume, the observation that 47,XXX females also show decreased brain volume in the presence of normal pubertal maturation suggests a possible direct dosage effect of X chromosome genes. Additional X chromosomes, such as in 49,XXXXY males, are associated with more markedly decreased brain volume and increased incidence of white matter hyperintensities. The limited data regarding effects of having two Y chromosomes (47,XYY) do not find significant differences in brain volume, although there are some reports of increased head size.

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