Sex differences in associations of arginine vasopressin and oxytocin with resting-state functional brain connectivity

Leah H. Rubin, Li Yao, Sarah K. Keedy, James L. Reilly, Jeffrey R. Bishop, C. Sue Carter, Hossein Pournajafi-Nazarloo, Lauren L. Drogos, Carol A. Tamminga, Godfrey D. Pearlson, Matcheri S. Keshavan, Brett A. Clementz, Scot K. Hill, Wei Liao, Gong Jun Ji, Su Lui, John A. Sweeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) exert robust and sexually dimorphic influences on cognition and emotion. How these hormones regulate relevant functional brain systems is not well understood. OT and AVP serum concentrations were assayed in 60 healthy individuals (36 women). Brain functional networks assessed with resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) were constructed with graph theory–based approaches that characterize brain networks as connected nodes. Sex differences were demonstrated in rs-fMRI. Men showed higher nodal degree (connectedness) and efficiency (information propagation capacity) in left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and bilateral superior temporal gyrus (STG) and higher nodal degree in left rolandic operculum. Women showed higher nodal betweenness (being part of paths between nodes) in right putamen and left inferior parietal gyrus (IPG). Higher hormone levels were associated with less intrinsic connectivity. In men, higher AVP was associated with lower nodal degree and efficiency in left IFG (pars orbitalis) and left STG and less efficiency in left IFG (pars triangularis). In women, higher AVP was associated with lower betweenness in left IPG, and higher OT was associated with lower nodal degree in left IFG (pars orbitalis). Hormones differentially correlate with brain networks that are important for emotion processing and cognition in men and women. AVP in men and OT in women may regulate orbital frontal cortex connectivity, which is important in emotion processing. Hormone associations with STG and pars triangularis in men and parietal cortex in women may account for well-established sex differences in verbal and visuospatial abilities, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)576-586
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • brain function
  • oxytocin
  • resting state
  • sex differences
  • vasopressin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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