Authors: Alice Weatherston
Results from a recent imaging study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B has linked key differences in the neural wiring of men and women with some behavioral traits commonly associated with each of the sexes.
The study, which was carried out at the University of Pennsylvania (PA, USA), utilized diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) brain scanning and a computerized neurocognitive battery (CNB) of tests to build up a structural connectome of 900 randomly selected healthy and unmedicated Philadelphian children and young adults (8–22 years of age).
Insight into the differences between male and female brains utilizing structural connectome maps provides an important opportunity to further investigate the possibilities for personalized medicine as well as treatments more generally for a variety of diseases.
Frequency, causes and progression of some diseases varies significantly between sexes. For example male’s are far more likely to develop autism, and in schizophrenia the severity and onset of the condition varies notably between the sexes.
“Links between brain and behavior possibly rely on a complex interplay among multiple features of the neurobiological mechanism. Network theoretical studies pertaining to the properties of the structural connectome may provide pioneering insights into these links,” explained Ragini Verma (University of Pennsylvania), lead author on the study.
Building on findings from 2013, in which differences in neural wiring between male and female brains were confirmed, the current study reported a further conclusion of an association between these differences in brain subnetworks and the behaviors of men and women involved in the study.
Specifically, stronger structural connectivity in motor, sensory and executive functions was associated with higher motor and spatial skills in males, whereas subnetworks related to social cognition, attention and memory tasks indicated higher connectivity and was linked to improved memory and social cognition skills.
“On a macro level, behavior-related disorders manifest and progress differently based on sex, and these findings should advance conversations about how we manage some of those conditions. Our results suggest a synchrony between sex-related differences in the brain network and behavior. Thus, in a near future, we may be able to pinpoint precisely at the subnetwork level what we know about an individual’s brain and how to manage care of whatever disorders or ailments they are facing,” concluded Verma.