Gender-Related and Hemispheric Effects in Cortical Thickness-Based Hemispheric Brain Morphological Network

Biomed Res Int. 2020 Aug 11;2020:3560259. doi: 10.1155/2020/3560259. eCollection 2020.


Objective: The current study examined gender-related differences in hemispheric asymmetries of graph metrics, calculated from a cortical thickness-based brain structural covariance network named hemispheric morphological network.

Methods: Using the T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging scans of 285 participants (150 females, 135 males) retrieved from the Human Connectome Project (HCP), hemispheric morphological networks were constructed per participant. In these hemispheric morphologic networks, the degree of similarity between two different brain regions in terms of the distributed patterns of cortical thickness values (the Jensen-Shannon divergence) was defined as weight of network edge that connects two different brain regions. After the calculation and summation of global and local graph metrics (across the network sparsity levels K = 0.10-0.36), asymmetry indexes of these graph metrics were derived.

Results: Hemispheric morphological networks satisfied small-worldness and global efficiency for the network sparsity ranges of K = 0.10-0.36. Between-group comparisons (female versus male) of asymmetry indexes revealed opposite directionality of asymmetries (leftward versus rightward) for global metrics of normalized clustering coefficient, normalized characteristic path length, and global efficiency (all p < 0.05). For the local graph metrics, larger rightward asymmetries of cingulate-superior parietal gyri for nodal efficiency in male compared to female, larger leftward asymmetry of temporal pole for degree centrality in female compared to male, and opposite directionality of interhemispheric asymmetry of rectal gyrus for degree centrality between female (rightward) and male (leftward) were shown (all p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Patterns of interhemispheric asymmetries for cingulate, superior parietal gyrus, temporal pole, and rectal gyrus are different between male and female for the similarities of the cortical thickness distribution with other brain regions. Accordingly, possible effect of gender-by-hemispheric interaction has to be considered in future studies of brain morphology and brain structural covariance networks.