Summary: AI analysis of MRI results reveals cellular-level differences in the brain structures of men and women, potentially improving the understanding and treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders by highlighting the importance of gender diversity in brain research.

  1. Cellular-Level Brain Differences: AI analysis of MRI scans reveals distinct cellular-level differences in brain structures between men and women, particularly in white matter.
  2. Impact on Brain Disorders: Understanding how biological sex affects brain organization can enhance diagnostic tools and treatments for conditions like multiple sclerosis, autism spectrum disorder, and migraines.
  3. Importance of Gender Diversity: The findings emphasize the necessity of gender diversity in brain research to avoid missing critical insights, as relying solely on male models can lead to biased results.


Artificial intelligence (AI) programs analyzing MRI results reveal differences in the brain structures of men and women at a cellular level, a new study finds. These differences were identified in white matter, a tissue located in the brain’s innermost layer that supports communication between regions.

Understanding Sex Differences in Brain Disorders

Men and women experience conditions like multiple sclerosis, autism spectrum disorder, and migraines at different rates and with varying symptoms. Understanding how biological sex affects the brain can improve diagnostic tools and treatments. While researchers have studied brain size, shape, and weight, they still lack a complete picture of the brain’s cellular organization.

Researchers at NYU Langone Health conducted a study using AI and machine learning to analyze thousands of MRI scans from 471 men and 560 women. The AI programs accurately distinguished between male and female brains by detecting structural patterns invisible to the human eye. Three different AI models, each focusing on different aspects of white matter, validated these findings.

Sex Differences in Brain Organization

“Our findings provide a clearer picture of how a living human brain is structured, which may offer new insight into psychiatric and neurological disorders and why they present differently in men and women,” says Yvonne Lui, MD, study senior author and neuroradiologist.

Lui, a professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, notes that previous studies relied on animal models and human tissue samples, with some results questioned due to subjective statistical analyses. This new study used machine learning to analyze entire groups of images, reducing human biases.

The researchers fed AI programs with brain scans from healthy men and women, training them to distinguish biological sex. The models accurately identified sex in 92% to 98% of cases, using features like water movement through brain tissue to make their determinations.

“These results highlight the importance of diversity when studying brain diseases,” says Junbo Chen, a doctoral candidate at NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

Gender Diversity in Brain Research

“If men are used as a standard model for disorders, researchers may miss critical insights,” adds Vara Lakshmi Bayanagari, MS, a graduate research assistant at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Bayanagari notes that while AI tools reported differences in brain-cell organization, they did not reveal which sex had which features and included only cis-gendered individuals.

The team plans to explore how sex-related brain structure differences develop over time, considering environmental, hormonal, and social factors.