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Cereb Cortex. 2018 Aug 1;28(8):2959-2975. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhy109.

Sex Differences in the Adult Human Brain: Evidence from 5216 UK Biobank Participants.

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Department of Psychology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
Division of Psychiatry, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
Department of Psychology and Center for Applied Neuroscience, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus.
Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
Department of Neurology and Alzheimer Centre, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Psychiatry, Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline, UK.
NHS Lothian, Edinburgh, UK.
MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.
Brain Research Imaging Centre, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


Sex differences in the human brain are of interest for many reasons: for example, there are sex differences in the observed prevalence of psychiatric disorders and in some psychological traits that brain differences might help to explain. We report the largest single-sample study of structural and functional sex differences in the human brain (2750 female, 2466 male participants; mean age 61.7 years, range 44-77 years). Males had higher raw volumes, raw surface areas, and white matter fractional anisotropy; females had higher raw cortical thickness and higher white matter tract complexity. There was considerable distributional overlap between the sexes. Subregional differences were not fully attributable to differences in total volume, total surface area, mean cortical thickness, or height. There was generally greater male variance across the raw structural measures. Functional connectome organization showed stronger connectivity for males in unimodal sensorimotor cortices, and stronger connectivity for females in the default mode network. This large-scale study provides a foundation for attempts to understand the causes and consequences of sex differences in adult brain structure and function.

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