Morphology of the Ventral Frontal Cortex: Relationship to Femininity and Social Cognition


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Abstract

Females have been shown in a number of studies to be more adept in social perception compared with males. In addition, studies have reported that brain regions important in interpretation of nonverbal social cues, such as the ventral frontal cortex (VFC), are morphologically different between genders. To investigate the relationship between the structure of the VFC and social cognition, gray matter volume and surface area of the VFC were measured on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans from 30 men and 30 women matched for age and IQ. The VFC was subdivided into the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and the straight gyrus (SG). The SG, but not the OFC, was proportionately larger in women. A subset of subjects was administered the Interpersonal Perception Task (IPT), a test of social perceptiveness, and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ), a scale of femininity and masculinity. Identification with more feminine traits on the PAQ correlated with greater SG gray matter volume and surface area. In addition, higher degrees of femininity correlated with better performance on the IPT. Taken together, these data suggest a complex relationship between femininity, social cognition, and the structure of the SG.

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