Sex differences in behavior have been reported from infancy through adulthood, but little is known about sex effects on functional circuitry in early infancy. Moreover, the relationship between early sex effects on the functional architecture of the brain and later behavioral performance remains to be elucidated. In this study, we used resting-state fMRI and a novel heatmap analysis to examine sex differences in functional connectivity with cross-sectional and longitudinal mixed models in a large cohort of infants (n = 319 neonates, 1-, and 2-year-olds). An adult dataset (n = 92) was also included for comparison. We investigated the relationship between sex differences in functional circuitry and later measures of language (collected in 1- and 2-year-olds) as well as indices of anxiety, executive function, and intelligence (collected in 4-year-olds). Brain areas showing the most significant sex differences were age-specific across infancy, with two temporal regions demonstrating consistent differences. Measures of functional connectivity showing sex differences in infancy were significantly associated with subsequent behavioral scores of language, executive function, and intelligence. Our findings provide insights into the effects of sex on dynamic neurodevelopmental trajectories during infancy and lay an important foundation for understanding the mechanisms underlying sex differences in health and disease.
- Executive function
- Resting state functional connectivity
- Sex differences