Sexual dimorphism in the relationship between brain complexity, volume and general intelligence (g): a cross-cohort study

Anca-Larisa Sandu* (Corresponding Author), Gordon D. Waiter, Roger T. Staff, Nafeesa Nazlee, Tina Habota, Chris J. McNeil, Dorota Chapko, Justin H. Williams, Caroline H. D. Fall, Giriraj R. Chandak, Shailesh Pene, Murali Krishna, Andrew M. McIntosh, Heather C. Whalley, Kalyanaraman Kumaran, Ghattu V. Krishnaveni, Alison D. Murray

*Corresponding author for this work

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Changes in brain morphology have been reported during development, ageing and in relation to different pathologies. Brain morphology described by the shape complexity of gyri and sulci can be captured and quantified using fractal dimension (FD). This measure of brain structural complexity, as well as brain volume, are associated with intelligence, but less is known about the sexual dimorphism of these relationships. In this paper, sex differences in the relationship between brain structural complexity and general intelligence (g) in two diverse geographic and cultural populations (UK and Indian) are investigated. 3D T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data and a battery of cognitive tests were acquired from participants belonging to three different cohorts: Mysore Parthenon Cohort (MPC); Aberdeen Children of the 1950s (ACONF) and UK Biobank. We computed MRI derived structural brain complexity and g estimated from a battery of cognitive tests for each group. Brain complexity and volume were both positively corelated with intelligence, with the correlations being significant in women but not always in men. This relationship is seen across populations of differing ages and geographical locations and improves understanding of neurobiological sex-differences.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11025
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date30 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

This work was funded by a Global Challenges Research Fund pump priming award from the Medical Research Council Grant (Ref: MC_PC_MR/R019541/1); a DBT-Wellcome Trust India Alliance (Ref: IA/CPHS/16/1/502655) to GVK; a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award (Ref: 104036/Z/14/Z) to AMM and a Roland Sutton Academic Trust project (Ref: 0066/R/19) to ALS, GDW and ADM.


  • cognitive neuroscience
  • image processing


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