Recent years have witnessed an increased attention to studies of sex differences, partly because such differences offer important considerations for personalized medicine. While the presence of sex differences in human behaviour is well documented, our knowledge of their anatomical foundations in the brain is still relatively limited. As a natural gateway to fathom the human mind and behaviour, studies concentrating on the human brain network constitute an important segment of the research effort to investigate sex differences. Using a large sample of healthy young individuals, each assessed with diffusion MRI and a computerized neurocognitive battery, we conducted a comprehensive set of experiments examining sex-related differences in the meso-scale structures of the human connectome and elucidated how these differences may relate to sex differences at the level of behaviour. Our results suggest that behavioural sex differences, which indicate complementarity of males and females, are accompanied by related differences in brain structure across development. When using subnetworks that are defined over functional and behavioural domains, we observed increased structural connectivity related to the motor, sensory and executive function subnetworks in males. In females, subnetworks associated with social motivation, attention and memory tasks had higher connectivity. Males showed higher modularity compared to females, with females having higher inter-modular connectivity. Applying multivariate analysis, we showed an increasing separation between males and females in the course of development, not only in behavioural patterns but also in brain structure. We also showed that these behavioural and structural patterns correlate with each other, establishing a reliable link between brain and behaviour.
Keywords: behaviour; connectome; diffusion imaging; gender; sex; structural connectivity.
© 2016 The Author(s).