Development and sexual dimorphism of the pituitary gland

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The pituitary gland plays a central role in sexual development and brain function. Therefore, we examined the effect of age and gender on pituitary volume in a large sample of healthy children and adults. Volumetric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was conducted in one hundred and fifty four (77 males and 77 females) healthy participants. Males were between the ages of 7 to 35 years (16.91 ± 5.89 years) and females were 7 to 35 years of age (16.75 ± 5.75 years). Subjects were divided into subgroups of age (7 to 9, 10 to 13, 14 to 17, 18 to 21, 22 and older) and sex (male/female). Pituitary gland volume differed between sexes when comparing the age groups (F = 3.55, df = 2, 143, p = 0.03). Females demonstrated larger pituitary glands than males in the age 14 to 17 year old groups (p = 0.04). Young (19 years and under) and old (20 years and older) females demonstrated a correlation between pituitary volume and age. Males did not show this relationship. These findings provide additional evidence for gender differences in the normative anatomy of the pituitary and may have relevance for the study of various childhood onset neuropsychiatric disorders in which pituitary dysfunction has been implicated.

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