Identifying craniofacial features associated with prenatal exposure to androgens and testing their relationship with brain development

Brain Struct Funct. 2015 Nov;220(6):3233-44. doi: 10.1007/s00429-014-0852-3. Epub 2014 Jul 30.


We used magnetic resonance (MR) images obtained in same-sex and opposite-sex dizygotic twins (n = 119, 8 years of age) to study possible effects of prenatal androgens on craniofacial features. Using a principal component analysis of 19 craniofacial landmarks placed on the MR images, we identified a principal component capturing craniofacial features that distinguished females with a presumed differential exposure to prenatal androgens by virtue of having a male (vs. a female) co-twin (Cohen's d = 0.76). Subsequently, we tested the possibility that this craniofacial "signature" of prenatal exposure to androgens predicts brain size, a known sexually dimorphic trait. In an independent sample of female adolescents (singletons; n = 462), we found that the facial signature predicts up to 8% of variance in brain size. These findings are consistent with the organizational effects of androgens on brain development and suggest that the facial signature derived in this study could complement other indirect measures of prenatal exposure to androgens.

Keywords: Adolescents; Brain; Face; MRI; Prenatal androgens; Twins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Androgens / metabolism*
  • Brain / embryology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Maxillofacial Development / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Sex Factors
  • Twins, Dizygotic*


  • Androgens