Two sexually dimorphic cell groups in the human brain

J Neurosci. 1989 Feb;9(2):497-506. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.09-02-00497.1989.


A quantitative analysis of the volume of 4 cell groups in the preoptic-anterior hypothalamic area (PO-AHA) and of the supraoptic nucleus (SON) of the human brain was performed in 22 age-matched male and female individuals. We suggest the term Interstitial Nuclei of the Anterior Hypothalamus (INAH 1-4) to identify these 4 previously undescribed cell groups in the PO-AHA. While 2 INAH and the SON were not sexually dimorphic, gender-related differences were found in the other 2 cell groups. One nucleus (INAH-3) was 2.8 times larger in the male brain than in the female brain irrespective of age. The other cell group (INAH-2) was twice as large in the male brain, but also appeared to be related in women to circulating steroid hormone levels. Since the PO-AHA influences gonadotropin secretion, maternal behavior, and sexual behavior in several mammalian species, these results suggest that functional sex differences in the hypothalamus may be related to sex differences in neural structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus, Anterior / cytology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Preoptic Area / cytology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Supraoptic Nucleus / cytology