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Hum Brain Mapp. 2015 Apr;36(4):1524-35. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22720. Epub 2014 Dec 18.

Sex differences in normal age trajectories of functional brain networks.

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Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.


Resting-state functional magnetic resonance image (rs-fMRI) is increasingly used to study functional brain networks. Nevertheless, variability in these networks due to factors such as sex and aging is not fully understood. This study explored sex differences in normal age trajectories of resting-state networks (RSNs) using a novel voxel-wise measure of functional connectivity, the intrinsic connectivity distribution (ICD). Males and females showed differential patterns of changing connectivity in large-scale RSNs during normal aging from early adulthood to late middle-age. In some networks, such as the default-mode network, males and females both showed decreases in connectivity with age, albeit at different rates. In other networks, such as the fronto-parietal network, males and females showed divergent connectivity trajectories with age. Main effects of sex and age were found in many of the same regions showing sex-related differences in aging. Finally, these sex differences in aging trajectories were robust to choice of preprocessing strategy, such as global signal regression. Our findings resolve some discrepancies in the literature, especially with respect to the trajectory of connectivity in the default mode, which can be explained by our observed interactions between sex and aging. Overall, results indicate that RSNs show different aging trajectories for males and females. Characterizing effects of sex and age on RSNs are critical first steps in understanding the functional organization of the human brain.


aging; brain networks; functional connectivity; resting state; sex differences

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