Brain size and grey matter volume in the healthy human brain

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Magnetic resonance imaging was used to evaluate the influence of sex and brain size on compartmental brain volumes (grey matter, white matter, CSF) in a large and well-matched sample of neurologically normal women (n = 50) and men (n = 50). As expected, we found a significant sex difference for the absolute volumes of total brain, grey matter, white matter and CSF, with greater volumes for men. Relating these compartmental volume measures to brain volume resulting in proportional volume measures revealed a higher proportion of grey matter in women. No significant sex differences were found for white matter and CSF proportions. However, when the influence of sex was partialized out by regression analyses, brain volume explained 40–81% of the variance of the absolute grey matter, white matter and CSF volumes. Performing these regression analyses for the proportional volume measures revealed that brain volume explained ∼16% of the variance in grey matter proportion. Sex or the interaction between sex and brain volume revealed no additional predicitve values. Interestingly, the correlation between brain volume and grey matter proportion was negative, with larger brains exhibiting relatively smaller proportions of grey matter. Thus, sex is not the main variable explaining the variability in grey matter volume. Rather, we suggest that brain size is the main variable determining the proportion of grey matter.

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