Sex effects on structural maturation of the limbic system and outcomes on emotional regulation during adolescence.
NeuroImage. 2020-04-01; 210: 116441
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Though adolescence is a time of emerging sex differences in emotions, sex-related
differences in the anatomy of the maturing brain has been under-explored over
this period. The aim of this study was to investigate whether puberty and sexual
differentiation in brain maturation could explain emotional differences between
girls and boys during adolescence. We adapted a dedicated longitudinal pipeline
to process structural and diffusion images from 335 typically developing
adolescents between 14 and 16 years. We used voxel-based and Regions of Interest
approaches to explore sex and puberty effects on brain and behavioral changes
during adolescence. Sexual differences in brain maturation were characterized by
amygdala and hippocampal volume increase in boys and decrease in girls. These
changes were mediating the sexual differences in positive emotional regulation as
illustrated by positive attributes increase in boys and decrease in girls.
Moreover, the differential maturation rates between the limbic system and the
prefrontal cortex highlighted the delayed maturation in boys compared to girls.
This is the first study to show the sex effects on the differential
cortico/subcortical maturation rates and the interaction between sex and puberty
in the limbic system maturation related to positive attributes, reported as being
protective from emotional disorders.