Sexual dimorphism in the brain maturation during childhood and adolescence has been repeatedly documented, which may underlie the differences in behaviors and cognitive performance. However, our understanding of how gender modulates the development of structural connectome in healthy adults is still not entirely clear. Here we utilized graph theoretical analysis of longitudinal diffusion tensor imaging data over a five-year period to investigate the progressive gender differences of brain network topology. The brain networks of both genders showed prominent economical "small-world" architecture (high local clustering and short paths between nodes). Additional analysis revealed a more economical "small-world" architecture in females as well as a greater global efficiency in males regardless of scan time point. At the regional level, both increased and decreased efficiency were found across the cerebral cortex for both males and females, indicating a compensation mechanism of cortical network reorganization over time. Furthermore, we found that weighted clustering coefficient exhibited significant gender-time interactions, implying different development trends between males and females. Moreover, several specific brain regions (e.g., insula, superior temporal gyrus, cuneus, putamen, and parahippocampal gyrus) exhibited different development trajectories between males and females. Our findings further prove the presence of sexual dimorphism in brain structures that may underlie gender differences in behavioral and cognitive functioning. The sex-specific progress trajectories in brain connectome revealed in this work provide an important foundation to delineate the gender related pathophysiological mechanisms in various neuropsychiatric disorders, which may potentially guide the development of sex-specific treatments for these devastating brain disorders.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)