The effect of sex and handedness on white matter anisotropy: a diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging study

Joanne L Powell, L Parkes, G J Kemp, V Sluming, T R Barrick, M Garcia-Finana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)

33 Citations (Scopus)


Diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging provides a way of assessing the asymmetry of white matter (WM) connectivity, the degree of anisotropic diffusion within a given voxel being a marker of coherently bundled myelinated fibers. Voxel-based statistical analysis was performed on fractional anisotropy (FA) images of 42 right- and 40 left-handers, to assess differences in underlying WM anisotropy and FA asymmetry across the whole brain. Right-handers show greater anisotropy than left-handers in the uncinate fasciculus (UF) within the limbic lobe, and WM underlying prefrontal cortex, medial and inferior frontal gyri. Significantly greater leftward FA asymmetry in cerebellum posterior lobe is seen in left- than right-handers, and males show significantly greater rightward (right-greater-than-left) FA asymmetry in regions of middle occipital lobe, medial temporal gyrus, and a region of the superior longitudinal fasciculus underlying the supramarginal gyrus. Leftward (left-greater-than-right) anisotropy is found in regions of the arcuate fasciculus (AF), UF, and WM underlying pars triangularis in both handedness groups, with right-handers alone showing additional leftward FA asymmetry along the length of the superior temporal gyrus. Overall results indicate that although both handedness groups show anisotropy in similar WM regions, greater anisotropy is observed in right-handers compared with left-handers. The largest differences in FA asymmetry are found between males and females, suggesting a greater effect of sex than handedness on FA asymmetry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-242
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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