Females Follow a More “Compact” Early Human Brain Development Model Than Males. A Case-Control Study of Preterm Neonates
URL with Digital Object Identifier
The pattern of sexual differentiation of the human brain is not well understood, particularly at the early stages of development when intense growth and multiple maturational phenomena overlap and interrelate. A case-control study of 20 preterm males and females matched for age was conducted. Three-dimensional images were acquired with 3 T MRI. The cerebral volume and the cortical folding area (FA), defined as the surface area of the interface between cortical gray and white matter, were compared between males and females. Females had smaller cerebra than males even after removing the influence of overall size differences between the subjects. The cortical FA increased in relation to volume by a power of 4/3 in both groups. Females had larger cortical FA compared with males with similar cerebral volumes. The study provides in vivo evidence of sexually dimorphic early human brain development. The relatively more "compact" female model may well relate to sex differences in neural circuitry and cognitive domains.