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Hum Brain Mapp. 2010 Nov;31(11):1713-26. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20968.

Cognitive and default-mode resting state networks: do male and female brains "rest" differently?

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  • 1Brain, Imaging, and Behavior-Systems Neuroscience, Toronto Western Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada.


Variability in human behavior related to sex is supported by neuroimaging studies showing differences in brain activation patterns during cognitive task performance. An emerging field is examining the human connectome, including networks of brain regions that are not only temporally-correlated during different task conditions, but also networks that show highly correlated spontaneous activity during a task-free state. Both task-related and task-free network activity has been associated with individual task performance and behavior under certain conditions. Therefore, our aim was to determine whether sex differences exist during a task-free resting state for two networks associated with cognitive task performance (executive control network (ECN), salience network (SN)) and the default mode network (DMN). Forty-nine healthy subjects (26 females, 23 males) underwent a 5-min task-free fMRI scan in a 3T MRI. An independent components analysis (ICA) was performed to identify the best-fit IC for each network based on specific spatial nodes defined in previous studies. To determine the consistency of these networks across subjects we performed self-organizing group-level ICA analyses. There were no significant differences between sexes in the functional connectivity of the brain areas within the ECN, SN, or the DMN. These important findings highlight the robustness of intrinsic connectivity of these resting state networks and their similarity between sexes. Furthermore, our findings suggest that resting state fMRI studies do not need to be controlled for sex.

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