Sex Difference in Brain Nerve Conduction Velocity in Normal Humans
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Nerve conduction velocity (NCV), the speed at which impulses travel along nerves, has been extensively determined in human peripheral nerves because of its clinical utility. In contrast, almost no studies have been made of human brain NCV. We determined brain NCVs in the visual nerve pathway for 185 male and 200 female university students ages 18-25 years. In each of three independent test conditions, we found that the mean NCV of male students is about 4% faster than in females (P < or = 0.0001 for each condition). These male students also have a shorter reaction time in each of seven different RT tests than do females, even though, on the null hypothesis of equal NCVs, we would expect males to have longer RT times because of their greater physical size. Four of these comparisons are significant at or below the 0.001 level. These males also increase their NCVs with increasing age, in contrast to females. These sex differences in NCV parallel reported sex differences in age changes in white matter in the brain. These age changes may largely explain these NCV differences.