January 20, 2021

Sex differences in lifespan trajectories and variability of human sulcal and gyral morphology

Sex differences in development and aging of human sulcal morphology have been understudied. We charted sex differences in trajectories and inter-individual variability of global sulcal depth, width, and length, pial surface area, exposed (hull) gyral surface area, unexposed sulcal surface area, cortical thickness, and cortex volume across the lifespan in a longitudinal sample (700 scans, 194 participants two scans, 104 three scans, age range: 16-70 years) of neurotypical males and females. After adjusting for brain volume, females had thicker cortex and steeper thickness decline until age 40 years; trajectories converged thereafter. Across sexes, sulcal shortening was faster before age 40, while sulcal shallowing and widening were faster thereafter. While hull area remained stable, sulcal surface area declined and was more strongly associated with sulcal shortening than with sulcal shallowing and widening. Males showed greater variability for cortex volume and thickness and lower variability for sulcal width. Across sexes, variability decreased with age for all measures except for cortical volume and thickness. Our findings highlight the association between loss of sulcal area, notably through sulcal shortening, with cortex volume loss. Studying sex differences in lifespan trajectories may improve knowledge of individual differences in brain development and the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric conditions.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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