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In Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)

Men and women process language differently, but how the brain functions to support this difference is poorly understood. A few studies reported sex influences on brain activation for language, whereas others failed to detect the difference at the functional level. Recent advances of brain network analysis have shown great promise in picking up brain connectivity differences between sexes, leading us to hypothesize that the functional connections among distinct brain regions for language may differ in males and females. To test this hypothesis, we scanned 58 participants' brain activities (28 males and 30 females) in a semantic decision task using functional magnetic resonance imaging. We found marked sex differences in dynamic interactions among language regions, as well as in functional segregation and integration of brain networks during language processing. The brain network differences were further supported by a machine learning analysis that accurately discriminated males from females using the multivariate patterns of functional connectivity. The sex-specific functional brain connectivity may constitute an essential neural basis for the long-held notion that men and women process language in different ways. Our finding also provides important implications for sex differences in the prevalence of language disorders, such as dyslexia and stuttering.

Xu Min, Liang Xiuling, Ou Jian, Li Hong, Luo Yue-Jia, Tan Li Hai


brain networks, language, machine learning, sex differences