Organizational effects of fetal testosterone on human corpus callosum size and asymmetry.


Previous theory and research in animals has identified the critical role that fetal testosterone (FT) plays in organizing sexually dimorphic brain development. However, to date there are no studies in humans directly testing the organizational effects of FT on structural brain development. In the current study we investigated the effects of FT on corpus callosum size and asymmetry. High-resolution structural magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brain were obtained on 28 8-11-year-old boys whose exposure to FT had been previously measured in utero via amniocentesis conducted during the second trimester. Although there was no relationship between FT and midsaggital corpus callosum size, increasing FT was significantly related to increasing rightward asymmetry (e.g., Right>Left) of a posterior subsection of the callosum, the isthmus, that projects mainly to parietal and superior temporal areas. This potential organizational effect of FT on rightward callosal asymmetry may be working through enhancing the neuroprotective effects of FT and result in an asymmetric distribution of callosal axons. We suggest that this possible organizational effect of FT on callosal asymmetry may also play a role in shaping sexual dimorphism in functional and structural brain development, cognition, and behavior.