Changes in brain weights during the span of human life: relation of brain weights to body heights and body weights

Ann Neurol. 1978 Oct;4(4):345-56. doi: 10.1002/ana.410040410.


More than 20,000 autopsy reports from several general hospitals were surveyed for the purpose of selecting brains without a pathological lesion that had been weighed in the fresh condition. From this number, 2,773 males and 1,963 females were chosen for whom body weight, body height, and cause of death had been recorded. The data were segregated into 23 age groups ranging from birth to 86+ years and subjected to statistical evaluation. Overall, the brain weights in males were greater than in females by 9.8%. The largest increases in brain weights in both sexes occurred during the first 3 years of life, when the value quadruples over that at birth, while during the subsequent 15 years the brain weight barely quintuples over that at birth. Progressive decline in brain weight begins at about 45 to 50 years of age and reaches its lowest values after age 86 years, by which time the mean brain weight has decreased by about 11% relative to the maximum brain weight attained in young adults (about 19 years of age). Computed regression lines for brain weights versus body heights and body weights and for ratios for brain weights to body heights and weights versus age groups show clearly differential rates of change in brain weights which are less affected by sex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size
  • Sex Factors