Brain Cortical Thickness Across Age and Gender: Data from Ethnically Diverse Cohort of 8,624 Individuals

April 24, 2024



To study the effects of aging and gender on the cortical thickness on a large diverse data.


Cortical thickness (CTH) has been intricately linked to the pathogenesis of various neurodegenerative diseases. The assessment of CTH via Magnetic Resonance Imaging indicates that reductions in CTH exhibit a robust correlation with the severity of clinical impairment making it a promising avenue for further exploration. This study investigates inter and intra-group variations in CTH, seeking to understand the consistency of gender differences in different ethnicities.


The study included 8,624 participants (53% male, 47% female) aged 18–97, with uniform data collection across two sites using Siemens scanners to reduce scanner-related biases. Our cohort comprised 57.48% Caucasian, 15.11% Mixed, 8.62% Asian, 6.54% South Asian and 12.25% other ethnic categories.

CTH measurements utilized a deep learning method, fastCSR, trained on T1-mprage acquired at 1.5T with FreeSurfer-v6.0 serving as the ground truth. Our approach reduced processing time to 35-mins from 8-hours making it suitable for large-scale analysis. Linear regression was employed to analyze the trends in the dataset.


CTH in the human-brain varies systematically, showing gender-related differences, with females generally having thicker cortices than males. These differences may stem from inherent sex-linked genetic-traits and the influence of gender-related cultural/environmental factors during development. When ethnicity-related factors were considered, this CTH pattern held true across most ethnic groups, except for South-Asians, where no gender-related CTH difference was found. Analyzing CTH variations within brain substructures revealed that the entorhinal, insula, and inferior temporal-cortex had thicker cortices, while the pericalcarine, cuneous, and postcentral-cortex had thinner cortices for all groups. Additionally, a linear-regression analysis demonstrated an annual CTH decrease of 0.36%, with females experiencing a slightly higher rate of CTH thinning (0.4%) compared to males (0.32%).


Study finds systematic CTH variations by gender, with females experiencing a slightly faster decline in thickness.

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