Sex differences in brain maturation during childhood and adolescence.
Brain development during childhood and adolescence is characterized by both progressive myelination and regressive pruning processes. However, sex differences in brain maturation remain poorly understood. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to examine the relationships between age and sex with cerebral gray and white matter volumes and corpus callosal areas in 118 healthy children and adolescents (61 males and 57 females), aged 6-17 years. Gender groups were similar on measures of age, handedness, socioeconomic status and Full Scale IQ. Significant age-related reductions in cerebral gray and increases in white matter volumes and corpus callosal areas were evident, while intracranial and cerebral volumes did not change significantly. Significant sex by age interactions were seen for cerebral gray and white matter volumes and corpus callosal areas. Specifically, males had more prominent age-related gray matter decreases and white matter volume and corpus callosal area increases compared with females. While these data are from a cross-sectional sample and need to be replicated in a longitudinal study, the findings suggest that there are age-related sex differences in brain maturational processes. The study of age-related sex differences in cerebral pruning and myelination may aid in understanding the mechanism of several developmental neuropsychiatric disorders.