Developmental differences in white matter architecture between boys and girls

Hum Brain Mapp. 2008 Jun;29(6):696-710. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20431.


Previous studies have found developmental differences between males and females in brain structure. During childhood and adolescence, relative white matter volume increases faster in boys than in girls. Sex differences in the development of white matter microstructure were investigated in a cohort of normal children ages 5-18 in a cross-sectional diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) study. Greater fractional anisotropy (FA) in boys was shown in associative white matter regions (including the frontal lobes), while greater FA in girls was shown in the splenium of the corpus callosum. Greater mean diffusivity (MD) in boys was shown in the corticospinal tract and in frontal white matter in the right hemisphere; greater MD in girls was shown in occipito-parietal regions and the most superior aspect of the corticospinal tract in the right hemisphere. Significant sex-age interactions on FA and MD were also shown. Girls displayed a greater rate of fiber density increase with age when compared with boys in associative regions (reflected in MD values). However, girls displayed a trend toward increased organization with age (reflected in FA values) only in the right hemisphere, while boys displayed this trend only in the left hemisphere. These results indicate differing developmental trajectories in white matter for boys and girls and the importance of taking sex into account in developmental DTI studies. The results also may have implications for the study of the relationship of brain architecture with intelligence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / cytology
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / growth & development
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Corpus Callosum / cytology
  • Corpus Callosum / growth & development
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / cytology
  • Frontal Lobe / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Internal Capsule / cytology
  • Internal Capsule / growth & development
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated*
  • Occipital Lobe / cytology
  • Occipital Lobe / growth & development
  • Parietal Lobe / cytology
  • Parietal Lobe / growth & development
  • Pyramidal Tracts / cytology
  • Pyramidal Tracts / growth & development
  • Sex Characteristics*