10,000 social brains: Sex differentiation in human brain anatomy

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Science Advances  18 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 12, eaaz1170
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz1170


In human and nonhuman primates, sex differences typically explain much interindividual variability. Male and female behaviors may have played unique roles in the likely coevolution of increasing brain volume and more complex social dynamics. To explore possible divergence in social brain morphology between men and women living in different social environments, we applied probabilistic generative modeling to ~10,000 UK Biobank participants. We observed strong volume effects especially in the limbic system but also in regions of the sensory, intermediate, and higher association networks. Sex-specific brain volume effects in the limbic system were linked to the frequency and intensity of social contact, such as indexed by loneliness, household size, and social support. Across the processing hierarchy of neural networks, different conditions for social interplay may resonate in and be influenced by brain anatomy in sex-dependent ways.

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