Sex differences in prefrontal cortical brain activity during fMRI of auditory verbal working memory

Goldstein JM, Jerram M, Poldrack R, Anagnoson R, Breiter HC, Makris N, Goodman JM, Tsuang MT, Seidman LJ

Neuropsychology 2005 Jul;19(4):509-19

PMID: 16060826


Functional imaging studies of sex effects in working memory (WMEM) are few, despite significant normal sex differences in brain regions implicated in WMEM. This functional MRI (fMRI) study tested for sex effects in an auditory verbal WMEM task in prefrontal, parietal, cingulate, and insula regions. Fourteen healthy, right-handed community subjects were comparable between the sexes, including on WMEM performance. Per statistical parametric mapping, women exhibited greater signal intensity changes in middle, inferior, and orbital prefrontal cortices than men (corrected for multiple comparisons). A test of mixed-sex groups, comparable on performance, showed no significant differences in the hypothesized regions, providing evidence for discriminant validity for significant sex differences. The findings suggest that combining men and women in fMRI studies of cognition may obscure or bias results.