Normal sexual dimorphism of the adult human brain assessed by in vivo magnetic resonance imaging.
The etiology and consistency of findings on normal sexual dimorphisms of the adult human brain are unresolved. In this study, we present a comprehensive evaluation of normal sexual dimorphisms of cortical and subcortical brain regions, using in vivo magnetic resonance imaging, in a community sample of 48 normal adults. The men and women were similar in age, education, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, general intelligence and handedness. Forty-five brain regions were assessed based on T(1)-weighted three-dimensional images acquired from a 1.5 T magnet. Sexual dimorphisms of adult brain volumes were more evident in the cortex, with women having larger volumes, relative to cerebrum size, particularly in frontal and medial paralimbic cortices. Men had larger volumes, relative to cerebrum size, in frontomedial cortex, the amygdala and hypothalamus. A permutation test showed that, compared to other brain areas assessed in this study, there was greater sexual dimorphism among brain areas that are homologous with those identified in animal studies showing greater levels of sex steroid receptors during critical periods of brain development. These findings have implications for developmental studies that would directly test hypotheses about mechanisms relating sex steroid hormones to sexual dimorphisms in humans.