Sexually divergent development of depression-related brain networks during healthy human adolescence.


Sexual differences in human brain development could be relevant to sex differences in the incidence of depression during adolescence. We tested for sex differences in parameters of normative brain network development using fMRI data on N = 298 healthy adolescents, aged 14 to 26 years, each scanned one to three times. Sexually divergent development of functional connectivity was located in the default mode network, limbic cortex, and subcortical nuclei. Females had a more "disruptive" pattern of development, where weak functional connectivity at age 14 became stronger during adolescence. This fMRI-derived map of sexually divergent brain network development was robustly colocated with i prior loci of reward-related brain activation ii a map of functional dysconnectivity in major depressive disorder (MDD), and iii an adult brain gene transcriptional pattern enriched for genes on the X chromosome, neurodevelopmental genes, and risk genes for MDD. We found normative sexual divergence in adolescent development of a cortico-subcortical brain functional network that is relevant to depression.