A sex difference on a novel spatial working memory task in humans

Brain Cogn. 2001 Dec;47(3):470-93. doi: 10.1006/brcg.2001.1326.


Neurophysiological and behavioral evidence suggests that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) may be sexually differentiated in nonhuman primates. The present study examined whether there are sex differences in working memory in humans that might reflect sexual differentiation of human PFC. Male and female undergraduates were administered a novel multitrial spatial working memory task (SPWM) and a verbal working memory task. In three experiments, females committed significantly fewer working memory errors and took significantly less time to reach criterion than males on the SPWM task. The female advantage was not accounted for by differences in general intellectual ability, attention, perceptual speed, incidental memory, or speed of verbal access. In Study 3, a sex difference was also observed on a measure of verbal working memory. The findings suggest that some prefrontal functions may be sexually differentiated in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / metabolism
  • Gonads / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Space Perception / physiology*


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones