Journal Article Sex Differences in the Default Mode Network with Regard to Autism Spectrum Traits : A Resting State fMRI Study

Jung, Minyoung  ,  Mody, Maria  ,  Saito, Daisuke N.  ,  Tomoda, Akemi  ,  Okazawa, Hidehiko  ,  Wada, Yuji  ,  Kosaka, Hirotaka

10p.e0143126 , 2015-11-24 , Public Library of Science
Autism spectrum traits exist on a continuum and are more common in males than in females, but the basis for this sex difference is unclear. To this end, the present study draws on the extreme male brain theory, investigating the relationship between sex difference and the default mode network (DMN), both known to be associated with autism spectrum traits.Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was carried out in 42 females (mean age +- standard deviation, 22.4 +- 4.2 years) and 43 males (mean age +- standard deviation, 23.8 +- 3.9 years) with typical development. Using a combination of different analyses (viz., independent component analysis (ICA), fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation (fALFF), regional homogeneity (ReHo), and seed-based analyses), we examined sex differences in the DMN and the relationship to autism spectrum traits as measured by autism-spectrum quotient (AQ) scores. We found significant differences between female and male subjects in DMN brain regions, with seed-based analysis revealing a significant negative correlation between default-mode resting state functional connectivity of the anterior medial prefrontal cortex seed (aMPFC) and AQ scores in males. However, there were no relationships between DMN sex differences and autism spectrum traits in females. Our findings may provide important insight into the skewed balance of functional connectivity in males compared to females that could serve as a potential biomarker of the degree of autism spectrum traits in line with the extreme male brain theory.

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