Functional inhibitory neural networks mature progressively with age. However, nothing is known about the impact of gender on their development. This study employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the effects of age, sex, and sex by age interactions on the brain activation of 63 healthy males and females, between 13 and 38years, performing a Stop task. Increasing age was associated with progressively increased activation in typical response inhibition areas of right inferior and dorsolateral prefrontal and temporo-parietal regions. Females showed significantly enhanced activation in left inferior and superior frontal and striatal regions relative to males, while males showed increased activation relative to females in right inferior and superior parietal areas. Importantly, left frontal and striatal areas that showed increased activation in females, also showed significantly increased functional maturation in females relative to males, while the right inferior parietal activation that was increased in males showed significantly increased functional maturation relative to females. The findings demonstrate for the first time that sex-dimorphic activation patterns of enhanced left fronto-striatal activation in females and enhanced right parietal activation in males during motor inhibition appear to be the result of underlying gender differences in the functional maturation of these brain regions.
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