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Cereb Cortex. 2013 Oct;23(10):2322-36. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhs222. Epub 2012 Aug 13.

Sex differences in the human brain and the impact of sex chromosomes and sex hormones.

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Department of Women and Child Health.


While there has been increasing support for the existence of cerebral sex differences, the mechanisms underlying these differences are unclear. Based on animal data, it has long been believed that sexual differentiation of the brain is primarily linked to organizational effects of fetal testosterone. This view is, however, in question as more recent data show the presence of sex differences before the onset of testosterone production. The present study focuses on the impact that sex chromosomes might have on these differences. Utilizing the inherent differences in sex and X-chromosome dosage among XXY males, XY males, and XX females, comparative voxel-based morphometry was conducted using sex hormones and sex chromosomes as covariates. Sex differences in the cerebellar and precentral gray matter volumes (GMV) were found to be related to X-chromosome dosage, whereas sex differences in the amygdala, the parahippocamus, and the occipital cortex were linked to testosterone levels. An increased number of sex chromosomes was associated with reduced GMV in the amygdala, caudate, and the temporal and insular cortices, with increased parietal GMV and reduced frontotemporal white matter volume. No selective, testosterone independent, effect of the Y-chromosome was detected. Based on these observations, it was hypothesized that programming of the motor cortex and parts of cerebellum is mediated by processes linked to X-escapee genes, which do not have Y-chromosome homologs, and that programming of certain limbic structures involves testosterone and X-chromosome escapee genes with Y-homologs.


MRI; XXY; brain; sex chromosome; sex dimorphism; sex hormone

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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