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Sci Rep. 2016 Jun 8;6:26492. doi: 10.1038/srep26492.

Sex differences in neural and behavioral signatures of cooperation revealed by fNIRS hyperscanning.

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Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research, Division of Brain Sciences, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, Stanford University, 401 Quarry Rd., Stanford CA, 94305 USA.
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Department of Social Neuroscience, Stephanstraße 1A, Leipzig, 04103 Germany.
Department of Radiology, School of Medicine, Stanford University, 1201 Welch Rd., Palo Alto, CA, 94304 USA.


Researchers from multiple fields have sought to understand how sex moderates human social behavior. While over 50 years of research has revealed differences in cooperation behavior of males and females, the underlying neural correlates of these sex differences have not been explained. A missing and fundamental element of this puzzle is an understanding of how the sex composition of an interacting dyad influences the brain and behavior during cooperation. Using fNIRS-based hyperscanning in 111 same- and mixed-sex dyads, we identified significant behavioral and neural sex-related differences in association with a computer-based cooperation task. Dyads containing at least one male demonstrated significantly higher behavioral performance than female/female dyads. Individual males and females showed significant activation in the right frontopolar and right inferior prefrontal cortices, although this activation was greater in females compared to males. Female/female dyad's exhibited significant inter-brain coherence within the right temporal cortex, while significant coherence in male/male dyads occurred in the right inferior prefrontal cortex. Significant coherence was not observed in mixed-sex dyads. Finally, for same-sex dyads only, task-related inter-brain coherence was positively correlated with cooperation task performance. Our results highlight multiple important and previously undetected influences of sex on concurrent neural and behavioral signatures of cooperation.

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