Sex differences in brain homotopic co-activations: a meta-analytic study

Brain Struct Funct. 2022 Nov;227(8):2839-2855. doi: 10.1007/s00429-022-02572-0. Epub 2022 Oct 21.


An element of great interest in functional connectivity is 'homotopic connectivity' (HC), namely the connectivity between two mirrored areas of the two hemispheres, mainly mediated by the fibers of the corpus callosum. Despite a long tradition of studying sexual dimorphism in the human brain, to our knowledge only one study has addressed the influence of sex on HC.We investigated the issue of homotopic co-activations in women and men using a coordinate-based meta-analytic method and data from the BrainMap database. A first unexpected observation was that the database was affected by a sex bias: women-only groups are investigated less often than men-only ones, and they are more often studied in certain domains such as emotion compared to men, and less in cognition. Implementing a series of sampling procedures to equalize the size and proportion of the datasets, our results indicated that females exhibit stronger interhemispheric co-activation than males, suggesting that the female brain is less lateralized and more integrated than that of males. In addition, males appear to show less intense but more extensive co-activation than females. Some local differences also appeared. In particular, it appears that primary motor and perceptual areas are more co-activated in males, in contrast to the opposite trend in the rest of the brain. This argues for a multidimensional view of sex brain differences and suggests that the issue should be approached with more complex models than previously thought.

Keywords: Activation likelihood estimation; Coordinate-based meta-analysis; Hemispheric integration; Homotopic connectivity; Lateralization.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Corpus Callosum / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*