The objective of this study was to investigate potential sex differences in the neural response to human bodies using fMRI carried out in healthy young adults. We presented human bodies in a block-design experiment to identify body-responsive regions of the brain, namely, extrastriate body area (EBA) and fusiform body area (FBA). In a separate event-related “adaptation” experiment, carried out in the same group of subjects, we presented sets of four human bodies of varying body size and shape. Varying levels of body morphing were introduced to assess the degree of morphing required for adaptation release. Analysis of BOLD signal in the block-design experiment revealed significant Sex × Hemisphere interactions in the EBA and the FBA responses to human bodies. Only women showed greater BOLD response to bodies in the right hemisphere compared with the left hemisphere for both EBA and FBA. The BOLD response in right EBA was higher in women compared with men. In the adaptation experiment, greater right versus left hemisphere response for EBA and FBA was also identified among women but not men. These findings are particularly novel in that they address potential sex differences in the lateralization of EBA and FBA responses to human body images. Although previous studies have found some degree of right hemisphere dominance in body perception, our results suggest that such a functional lateralization may differ between men and women.

You do not currently have access to this content.