Women have greater density of neurons in posterior temporal cortex
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Cytoarchitectonic area TA1 (von Economo) in the cortex of the planum temporale within the Sylvian fissure, which is auditory association cortex and documented to be part of the neural substrate of language functions, was studied quantitatively in the brain specimens of five women and four men (mean age of 50 year). All cases were documented to be medically and cognitively normal, and consistently right-handed. We investigated the possibility that the difference in brain size between men and women is reflected in differences in the numerical density of neurons in area TA1, an area associated with morphologic and psychological sex differences. Neuron counts were made directly through cell differentiation under the microscope from Nissl-stained sections. Cortical depth, the number of neurons through the depth of cortex under 1 mm2 of cortical surface (Nc), and the number of neurons per unit volume (Nv) were obtained for the total cortex and for each of the six layers in each hemisphere. For total cortex in both hemispheres, depth and Nc were similar, but Nv was greater by 11% in women, with no overlap of scores between the sexes. The sex difference in Nv was attributable to layers II and IV; in contrast, Nv did not differ between the sexes in layers III, V, and VI. This is the first report of such a sex difference in human cortex. The results suggest that the cortical functional unit has a different ratio of input and output components in men and women which could have implications for the sex differences in cognition and behavior. Due to the small sample size and the homogeneity of the cases studied, generalizability of the results requires replication by other studies. In addition, cytoarchitectonic mapping indicated that area TA1 also occurs in the vertical posterior wall of the Sylvian fissure, providing evidence that anatomical definition of the planum temporale should include the posterior vertical wall of the superior temporal gyrus.
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