Females exhibit smaller volumes of brain activation and lower inter-subject variability during motor tasks

Justin W. Andrushko, Shie Rinat, Eric D. Kirby, Julia Dahlby, Chelsea Ekstrand*, Lara A. Boyd*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Past work has shown that brain structure and function differ between females and males. Males have larger cortical and sub-cortical volume and surface area (both total and subregional), while females have greater cortical thickness in most brain regions. Functional differences are also reported in the literature, yet to date little work has systematically considered whether patterns of brain activity indexed with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) differ between females and males. The current study sought to remediate this issue by employing task-based whole brain motor mapping analyses using an openly available dataset. We tested differences in patterns of functional brain activity associated with 12 voluntary movement patterns in females versus males. Results suggest that females exhibited smaller volumes of brain activation across all 12 movement tasks, and lower patterns of variability in 10 of the 12 movements. We also observed that females had greater cortical thickness, which is in alignment with previous analyses of structural differences. Overall, these findings provide a basis for considering biological sex in future fMRI research and provide a foundation of understanding differences in how neurological pathologies present in females vs males.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17698
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2023

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