Divergence between the sex chromosomes has led to loss and differentiation of Y-linked genes and haplo-insufficiency for X-linked genes in males. A mechanism of dosage compensation, for which we recently found evidence in mammals, evolved to restore a balanced expression of the genome by doubling the transcriptional output from the X chromosome. X inactivation would then serve to avoid hyper-transcription of X-linked genes in females by silencing one X chromosome. We also found that, compared to the rest of the genome, the X chromosome contains an excess of genes highly expressed in brain tissues. The exceptionally important role of the X chromosome in brain function, evident from the prevalence of X-linked forms of mental retardation, is discussed in view of sex chromosome regulation and evolution and sexual reproduction.