Sex differences in parietal lobe structure and development

Gend Med. 2012 Feb;9(1):44-55. doi: 10.1016/j.genm.2012.01.003.


Structural magnetic resonance imaging studies provide evidence for sex differences in the human brain. Differences in surface area and the proportion of gray to white matter volume are observed, in particular in the parietal lobe. To our knowledge, no studies have examined sex differences in parietal lobe structure in younger populations or in the context of development. The present study evaluated sex differences in the structure of the parietal lobe in children aged 7 to 17 years. In addition, by adding a cohort of previously studied adults aged 18 to 50 years, sex differences in parietal lobe structure were examined across the age span of 7 to 50 years. Compared with the adult sample, the younger sample showed that the ratio of parietal lobe cortex to white matter was greater in female brains, but no sex differences in surface area. When examining the effects of age, surface area exhibited a significant sex-age interaction. In male brains, there was essentially no decrease in surfaces area over time, whereas in female brains, there was a significant decrease in surface area over time. These findings support the notion of structural sex differences in the parietal lobe, not only in the context of cross-sectional assessment but also in terms of differences in developmental trajectories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parietal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Parietal Lobe / growth & development*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Young Adult