Sex-specific variation of MRI-based cortical morphometry in adult healthy volunteers: the effect on cognitive functioning

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Mar 30;35(2):616-23. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2011.01.005. Epub 2011 Jan 13.


Previous investigations have revealed sex-specific differences in brain morphometry. The effect of sex on cortical thickness may be influencing cognitive differences between sexes. With this exploratory study, we aimed to investigate the effect of sex in MRI-based cerebral cortex morphometry in healthy young volunteers and how the variability in cortical measures might affect cognitive functioning in men and women. 76 young healthy volunteers (45 men and 31 women) underwent a 1.5 T MR scan and 53 of them completed a comprehensive cognitive battery. Overall no gross significant differences between sexes were found in cortical thickness, surface area and curvature indexes. However, there was a significant group by hemisphere interaction in the total cortical thickness (F(1,72)=5.02; p=0.03). A greater leftward asymmetry was observed in cortical thickness in males. Only females show significant associations between cortical thickness and cognitive functioning (IQ and executive functioning). In conclusion, our findings do not support the notion of sexual dimorphism in cortical mantle morphology. The results also suggest that variability in cortical thickness may affect cognitive functioning in females but not in males.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aptitude*
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Young Adult