Sex differences in limbic network and risk-taking propensity in healthy individuals

Sahil Bajaj, William D.S. Killgore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Little is known about the structural neural substrates that may contribute to sex differences in risk-taking propensity (RTP). A close association between risk-seeking behavior and the emotional-regulation network led us to hypothesize that the sex differences in RTP would be associated with sex differences in brain morphometry of the limbic network (LN). We collected RTP scores using the bubble sheet version of the evaluation of risk (EVAR) scale and neuroanatomical data from 57 healthy individuals (29 males). The EVAR scale included sub-scales measuring recklessness/impulsivity, self-confidence, and need for control (NFC). We observed significant sex differences in NFC showing greater desire for control and dominance in males than females (multivariate analysis of covariance, MANCOVAN: p =.01). Morphometry analysis showed that it was only the right LN, which showed significant sex differences in normalized surface area, normalized cortical volume, and adjusted mean curvature index (females > males) at p <.01 (MANCOVAN, corrected for multiple comparisons). Correlation analysis showed that greater curvature of the right LN was significantly associated with lower desire for control in high-risk events (r = −.31, p =.02 at 95% CI of [−0.53, –0.05]). Our findings suggest that the normalized cortical measures could indicate specific sex differences in brain morphometry, particularly within the LN. The curvature index was the only differentiating factor for greater/lower propensity for risk-taking behavior in overall sample. Therefore, the LN and the curvature measures could be key biomarkers, which play an important role in predicting risk-taking behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-383
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • behavior
  • brain
  • cerebral cortex
  • gender differences
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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