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In Cognitive neuroscience

Sex differences in brain anatomy have been described from early childhood through late adulthood, but without any clear consensus among studies. Here, we applied a machine learning approach to estimate 'Brain Sex' using a continuous (rather than binary) classifier in 162 boys and 185 girls aged between 5 and 18 years. Changes in the estimated sex differences over time at different age groups were subsequently calculated using a sliding window approach. We hypothesized that males and females would differ in brain structure already during childhood, but that these differences will become even more pronounced with increasing age, particularly during adolescence. Overall, the classifier achieved a good performance, with an accuracy of 80.4% and an AUC of 0.897 across all age groups. Assessing changes in the estimated sex with age revealed a growing difference between the sexes with increasing age. That is, the very large effect size of d = 1.2 which was already evident during childhood increased even further from age 11 onward, and eventually reached an effect size of d = 1.6 at age 17. Altogether these findings suggest a systematic sex difference in brain structure already during childhood, and a subsequent increase of this difference during adolescence.

Kurth Florian, Gaser Christian, Luders Eileen


Adolescence, brain, childhood, development, machine learning, puberty, relevance vector, sex