Comparable fMRI activity with differential behavioural performance on mental rotation and overt verbal fluency tasks in healthy men and women
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To explicate the neural correlates of sex differences in visuospatial and verbal fluency tasks, we examined behavioural performance and blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) regional brain activity, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, during a three-dimensional (3D) mental rotation task and a compressed sequence overt verbal fluency task in a group of healthy men (n=9) and women (n=10; tested during the low-oestrogen phase of the menstrual cycle). Men outperformed women on the mental rotation task, and women outperformed men on the verbal fluency task. For the mental rotation task, men and women activated areas in the right superior parietal lobe and the bilateral middle occipital gyrus in association with the rotation condition. In addition, men activated the left middle temporal gyrus and the right angular gyrus. For verbal fluency, men activated areas in the bilateral superior frontal gyrus, right cingulate gyrus, left precentral gyrus, left medial frontal gyrus, left inferior frontal gyrus, thalamus, left parahippocampal gyrus and bilateral lingual gyrus, and women activated areas in the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus and left caudate. Despite observing task related activation in the hypothesised areas in men and women, no areas significantly differentiated the two sexes. Our results demonstrate comparable brain activation in men and women in association with mental rotation and verbal fluency function with differential performance, and provide support for sex differences in brain–behaviour relationships.