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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

The Journal of Headache and Pain 1/2018

Gender differences in functional connectivities between insular subdivisions and selective pain-related brain structures

The Journal of Headache and Pain > Ausgabe 1/2018
Yu-Jie Dai, Xin Zhang, Yang Yang, Hai-Yan Nan, Ying Yu, Qian Sun, Lin-Feng Yan, Bo Hu, Jin Zhang, Zi-Yu Qiu, Yi Gao, Guang-Bin Cui, Bi-Liang Chen, Wen Wang
Wichtige Hinweise
Yu-Jie Dai, Xin Zhang and Yang Yang contributed equally to this work.



The incidence of pain disorders in women is higher than in men, making gender differences in pain a research focus. The human insular cortex is an important brain hub structure for pain processing and is divided into several subdivisions, serving different functions in pain perception. Here we aimed to examine the gender differences of the functional connectivities (FCs) between the twelve insular subdivisions and selected pain-related brain structures in healthy adults.


Twenty-six healthy males and 11 age-matched healthy females were recruited in this cross-sectional study. FCs between the 12 insular subdivisions (as 12 regions of interest (ROIs)) and the whole brain (ROI-whole brain level) or 64 selected pain-related brain regions (64 ROIs, ROI-ROI level) were measured between the males and females.


Significant gender differences in the FCs of the insular subdivisions were revealed: (1) The FCs between the dorsal dysgranular insula (dId) and other brain regions were significantly increased in males using two different techniques (ROI-whole brain and ROI-ROI analyses); (2) Based on the ROI-whole brain analysis, the FC increases in 4 FC-pairs were observed in males, including the left dId - the right median cingulate and paracingulate/ right posterior cingulate gyrus/ right precuneus, the left dId - the right median cingulate and paracingulate, the left dId - the left angular as well as the left dId - the left middle frontal gyrus; (3) According to the ROI-ROI analysis, increased FC between the left dId and the right rostral anterior cingulate cortex was investigated in males.


In summary, the gender differences in the FCs of the insular subdivisions with pain-related brain regions were revealed in the current study, offering neuroimaging evidence for gender differences in pain processing.

Trial registration, NCT02820974. Registered 28 June 2016.
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