Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews | Published:

Let’s call the whole thing off: evaluating gender and sex differences in executive function

Neuropsychopharmacologyvolume 44pages8696 (2019) | Download Citation


The executive functions allow for purposeful, deliberate, and intentional interactions with the world—attention and focus, impulse control, decision making, and working memory. These measures have been correlated with academic outcomes and quality of life, and are impacted by deleterious environmental events throughout the life span, including gestational and early life insults. This review will address the topic of sex differences in executive function including a discussion of differences arising in response to developmental programming. Work on gender differences in human studies and sex differences in animal research will be reviewed. Overall, we find little support for significant gender or sex differences in executive function. An important variable that factors into the interpretation of potential sex differences include differing developmental trajectories. We conclude by discussing future directions for the field and a brief discussion of biological mechanisms.

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Support was provided by NIH MH106330 (TMR) and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (NMG) and the Klarman Family Foundation (NMG).

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  1. Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 55455, USA

    • Nicola M. Grissom
  2. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, 45237, USA

    • Teresa M. Reyes


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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Teresa M. Reyes.

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