Aging, sexual dimorphism, and hemispheric asymmetry of the cerebral cortex: replicability of regional differences in volume

Neurobiol Aging. 2004 Mar;25(3):377-96. doi: 10.1016/S0197-4580(03)00118-0.


We examined age-, sex-, and hemisphere-related differences in the cerebral cortex. Volumes of the cerebral hemispheres and 13 regions of interest (ROIs) were measured on magnetic resonance images of 200 healthy adults. The strength of association between age and volume differed across ROIs. The lateral prefrontal cortex exhibited the greatest age-related differences, whereas significantly weaker associations were observed in the prefrontal white matter, sensory-motor, and visual association regions. The hippocampal shrinkage was significant in people in their mid-fifties. The primary visual, anterior cingulate, the inferior parietal cortices, and the parietal white matter showed no age-related differences. The pattern of age-related regional differences replicated the findings previously obtained on an independent sample drawn from the same population. Men evidenced larger volumes in all ROIs except the inferior parietal lobule, even after sexual dimorphism in body size was statistically controlled. In some regions (hippocampus and fusiform gyrus) men exhibited steeper negative age-related trends than women. Although a typical pattern of global hemispheric asymmetry was observed, the direction and magnitude of regional volumetric asymmetry was as inconsistent as in the previous reports. Thus, a pattern of age-related shrinkage suggesting increased vulnerability of the lateral prefrontal cortex to aging appears stable and replicable, whereas little consistency exists in sex-related and hemispheric differences in regional cortical volumes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Atrophy / pathology*
  • Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Body Constitution / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sex Characteristics*