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Review
, 72 (1), 46-55

Sex Differences in the Adolescent Brain

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Review

Sex Differences in the Adolescent Brain

Rhoshel K Lenroot et al. Brain Cogn.

Abstract

Adolescence is a time of increased divergence between males and females in physical characteristics, behavior, and risk for psychopathology. Here we will review data regarding sex differences in brain structure and function during this period of the lifespan. The most consistent sex difference in brain morphometry is the 9-12% larger brain size that has been reported in males. Individual brain regions that have most consistently been reported as different in males and females include the basal ganglia, hippocampus, and amygdala. Diffusion tensor imaging and magnetization transfer imaging studies have also shown sex differences in white matter development during adolescence. Functional imaging studies have shown different patterns of activation without differences in performance, suggesting male and female brains may use slightly different strategies for achieving similar cognitive abilities. Longitudinal studies have shown sex differences in the trajectory of brain development, with females reaching peak values of brain volumes earlier than males. Although compelling, these sex differences are present as group averages and should not be taken as indicative of relative capacities of males or females.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Mean volume by age in years for males (N = 475 scans) and females (N = 354 scans). Middle lines in each set of three lines represent mean values, and upper and lower lines represent upper and lower 95% confidence intervals. All curves differed significantly in height and shape. Figure adapted from Lenroot et al., 2007.

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