Developmental sex differences in basic visuospatial processing: differences in strategy use?

Clements-Stephens AM, Rimrodt SL, Cutting LE
Neurosci Lett. 2009 449 (3): 155-60

PMID: 19000742 · PMCID: PMC2627765 · DOI:10.1016/j.neulet.2008.10.094

Functional neuroimaging studies investigating sex differences in visuospatial processing traditionally focus on mental rotation tasks in adults, as it is a consistently robust finding, with a limited number of studies examining tasks tapping visuospatial skills at a more basic level. Furthermore, fewer studies have examined this issue in conjunction with investigating whether differences exist in younger populations. Therefore, functional neuroimaging was used to examine whether sex-based differences exist and/or develop during childhood. Thirty-two participants, matched on performance, participated in this study. Overall, both groups showed overlapping activation in bilateral superior parietal lobe, extrastriate cortex, and cerebellum; differences between the sexes showed that males had significantly greater activation in right lingual gyrus and cerebellum. Formal comparisons between age groups revealed that older males show engagement of left hemisphere regions, while females show greater bilateral (R>L) engagement of regions traditionally associated with visuospatial processing. Together, these results suggest that older males, as compared to younger males, may engage regions that are associated with a visuomotor network, whereas females utilize areas indicated in spatial attention and working memory. Furthermore, these results could also suggest that there may be differences in strategy use that are evident early on and may continue to develop over time evident by differential engagement of networks associated with visuospatial processing. Our data provide evidence for sex-based differences in the neural basis of visuospatial processing.

MeSH Terms (21)

Adolescent Adult Age Factors Analysis of Variance Brain Brain Mapping Child Female Functional Laterality Humans Image Processing, Computer-Assisted Judgment Magnetic Resonance Imaging Male Neuropsychological Tests Orientation Oxygen Photic Stimulation Reaction Time Sex Characteristics Space Perception

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