Sexual dimorphism and asymmetries in the gray-white composition of the human cerebrum

Neuroimage. 2003 Apr;18(4):880-94. doi: 10.1016/s1053-8119(03)00034-x.


Using high resolution MRI scans and automated tissue segmentation, gray and white matter (GM, WM) volumes of the frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes, cingulate gyrus, and insula were calculated. Subjects included 23 male and 23 female healthy, right-handed subjects. For all structures, male volumes were greater than female, but the gray/white (G/W) ratio was consistently higher across structures in women than men. Sexual dimorphism was greater for WM than GM: most of the G/W ratio sex differences can be attributed to variation in WM volume. The corpus callosum, although larger in men, is less sexually dimorphic than the WM as a whole. Several regions demonstrate pair-wise asymmetries in G/W ratio and WM volume. Both the cingulate gyrus and insula exhibit strong asymmetries. The left cingulate gyrus is significantly larger than the right, and the G/W ratio of the left insula is significantly greater than that of the right. Although statistically significant sex differences and asymmetries are present at this level of analysis, we argue that researchers should be wary of ascribing cognitive functional significance to these patterns at this time. This is not to say, however, that these patterns are not important for understanding the natural history of the human brain, and its evolution and development.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Telencephalon / anatomy & histology*
  • Telencephalon / physiology*