A Key Characteristic of Sex Differences in the Developing Brain: Greater Variability in Brain Structure of Boys than Girls

In many domains, including cognition and personality, greater variability is observed in males than in females in humans.


However, little is known about how variability differences between sexes are represented in the brain. The present study tested whether there is a sex difference in variance in brain structure using a cohort of 643 males and 591 females aged between 3 and 21 years. The broad age-range of the sample allowed us to test if variance differences in the brain differ across age. We observed significantly greater male than female variance for several key brain structures, including cerebral white matter and cortex, hippocampus, pallidum, putamen, and cerebellar cortex volumes. The differences were observed at both upper and lower extremities of the distributions and appeared stable across development. These findings move beyond mean levels by showing that sex differences were pronounced for variability, thereby providing a novel perspective on sex differences in the developing brain.

Cerebral Cortex, 2017,DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhx154


Published June 26, 2017 7:00 AM