A PRELIMINARY STUDY OF SEX DIFFERENCES IN BRAIN ACTIVATION DURING A SPATIAL NAVIGATION TASK IN HEALTHY ADULTS1,2


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Abstract

Summary.The hippocampus plays a significant role in spatial memory processing, with sex differences being prominent on various spatial tasks. This study examined sex differences in healthy adults, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in areas implicated in spatial processing during navigation of a virtual analogue of the Morris water-maze. There were three conditions: learning, hidden, and visible control. There were no significant differences in performance measures. However, sex differences were found in regional brain activation during learning in the right hippocampus, right parahippocampal gyms, and the cingulate cortex. During the hidden condition, the hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus, and cingulate cortex were activated in both men and women. Additional brain areas involved in spatial processing may be recruited in women when learning information about the environment, by utilizing external cues (landmarks) more than do men, contributing to the observed sex differences in brain activation.

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