Brain connectivity: gender makes a difference

Neuroscientist. 2011 Oct;17(5):575-91. doi: 10.1177/1073858410386492. Epub 2011 Apr 28.


It has been well known that gender plays a critical role in the anatomy and function of the human brain, as well as human behaviors. Recent neuroimaging studies have demonstrated gender effects on not only focal brain areas but also the connectivity between areas. Specifically, structural MRI and diffusion MRI data have revealed substantial gender differences in white matter-based anatomical connectivity. Structural MRI data further demonstrated gender differences in the connectivity revealed by morphometric correlation among brain areas. Functional connectivity derived from functional neuroimaging (e.g., functional MRI and PET) data is also modulated by gender. Moreover, male and female human brains display differences in the network topology that represents the organizational patterns of brain connectivity across the entire brain. In this review, the authors summarize recent findings in the multimodal brain connectivity/network research with gender, focusing on large-scale data sets derived from modern neuroimaging techniques. The literature provides convergent evidence for a substantial gender difference in brain connectivity within the human brain that possibly underlies gender-related cognitive differences. Therefore, it should be mandatory to take gender into account when designing experiments or interpreting results of brain connectivity/network in health and disease. Future studies will likely be conducted to explore the interdependence between gender-related brain connectivity/network and the gender-specific nature of brain diseases as well as to investigate gender-related characteristics of multimodal brain connectivity/network in the normal brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics*