Gender similarities and differences in brain activation strategies: Voxel-based meta-analysis on fMRI studies

J Integr Neurosci. 2017;16(2):227-240. doi: 10.3233/JIN-170015.


Gender similarities and differences have long been a matter of debate in almost all human research, especially upon reaching the discussion about brain functions. This large scale meta-analysis was performed on functional MRI studies. It included more than 700 active brain foci from more than 70 different experiments to study gender related similarities and differences in brain activation strategies for three of the main brain functions: Visual-spatial cognition, memory, and emotion. Areas that are significantly activated by both genders (i.e. core areas) for the tested brain function are mentioned, whereas those areas significantly activated exclusively in one gender are the gender specific areas. During visual-spatial cognition task, and in addition to the core areas, males significantly activated their left superior frontal gyrus, compared with left superior parietal lobule in females. For memory tasks, several different brain areas activated by each gender, but females significantly activated two areas from the limbic system during memory retrieval tasks. For emotional task, males tend to recruit their bilateral prefrontal regions, whereas females tend to recruit their bilateral amygdalae. This meta-analysis provides an overview based on functional MRI studies on how males and females use their brain.

Keywords: Brain; emotion; fMRI; gender; memory; thinking.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics*