Sex differences in brain and behavior in adolescence: Findings from the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016 Nov;70:159-170. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.07.035. Epub 2016 Aug 3.


Sex differences in brain and behavior were investigated across the lifespan. Parameters include neurobehavioral measures linkable to neuroanatomic and neurophysiologic indicators of brain structure and function. Sexual differentiation of behavior has been related to organizational factors during sensitive periods of development, with adolescence and puberty gaining increased attention. Adolescence is a critical developmental period where transition to adulthood is impacted by multiple factors that can enhance vulnerability to brain dysfunction. Here we highlight sex differences in neurobehavioral measures in adolescence that are linked to brain function. We summarize neuroimaging studies examining brain structure, connectivity and perfusion, underscoring the relationship to sex differences in behavioral measures and commenting on hormonal findings. We focus on relevant data from the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort (PNC), a community-based sample of nearly 10,000 clinically and neurocognitively phenotyped youths age 8-21 of whom 1600 have received multimodal neuroimaging. These data indicate early and pervasive sexual differentiation in neurocognitive measures that is linkable to brain parameters. We conclude by describing possible clinical implications.

Keywords: Brain function; Brain structure; Neurocognition; Neurodevelopment; Sexual differentiation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Brain*
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging
  • Philadelphia
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Maturation