Men and women differ in the neural basis of handwriting

Yang Yang, Fred Tam (Corresponding Author), Simon J. Graham (Corresponding Author), Guochen Sun (Corresponding Author), Jun Jun Li (Corresponding Author), Chanyuan Gu (Corresponding Author), Ran Tao, Nizhuan Wang (Corresponding Author), Hong Yan Bi (Corresponding Author), Zhentao Zuo

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


There is an ongoing debate about whether, and to what extent, males differ from
females in their language skills. In the case of handwriting, a composite language skill involving language and motor processes, behavioral observations consistently show robust sex differences but the mechanisms underlying the effect are unclear. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in a copying task, the present study examined the neural basis of sex differences in handwriting in 53 healthy adults (ages 19–28, 27 males). Compared to females, males showed increased activation in the left posterior middle frontal gyrus (Exner's area), a region thought to support the conversion between orthographic and graphomotor codes. Functional connectivity between Exner's area and the right cerebellum was greater in males than in females.
Furthermore, sex differences in brain activity related to handwriting were independent
of language material. This study identifies a novel neural signature of sex differences
in a hallmark of human behavior, and highlights the importance of considering
sex as a factor in scientific research and clinical applications involving handwriting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Exner's area, fMRI, handwriting, sex differences

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