Sex differences in mouse cortical thickness are independent of the complement of sex chromosomes

J. A. Markham, H. A. Jurgens, C. J. Auger, G. J. De Vries, A. P. Arnold, J. M. Juraska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the morphology of the cerebral cortex is known to be sexually dimorphic in several species, to date this difference has not been investigated in mice. The present study is the first to report that the mouse cerebral cortex is thicker in males than in females. We further asked if this sex difference is the result of gonadal hormones, or alternatively is induced by a direct effect of genes encoded on the sex chromosomes. The traditional view of mammalian neural sexual differentiation is that androgens or their metabolites act during early development to masculinize the brain, whereas a feminine brain develops in the relative absence of sex steroids. We used mice in which the testis determination gene Sry was inherited independently from the rest of the Y chromosome to produce XX animals that possessed either ovaries or testes, and XY animals that possessed either testes or ovaries. Thus, the design allowed assessment of the role of sex chromosome genes, independent of gonadal hormones, in the ontogeny of sex differences in the mouse cerebral cortex. When a sex difference was present, mice possessing testes were invariably masculine in the morphology of the cerebral cortex, independent of the complement of their sex chromosomes (XX vs. XY), and mice with ovaries always displayed the feminine phenotype. These data suggest that sex differences in cortical thickness are under the control of gonadal steroids and not sex chromosomal complement. However, it is unclear whether it is the presence of testicular secretions or the absence of ovarian hormones that is responsible for the thicker male cerebral cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-75
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2003


  • Cortex
  • Gonadal hormones
  • Sexual differentiation
  • Sry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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