Measuring Sex Differences in the Corpus Callosum by Undergraduates at a Small and a Large Institution

Cary H. Leung, Imrin Goraya, Leena Kasa, Natalie Schottler, William Grisham


Neuroscience students often seem more responsive to laboratory exercises that involve human brains.  Here we describe a lab that utilizes human brain MRIs to evaluate a long-standing debate over the presence of sex differences in the human brain, specifically the corpus callosum.  Students at both Widener and UCLA measured corpus callosum subregions that were already marked-off as described by Witelson (1989) or by Hofer and Frahm (2006).  Statistical analyses revealed sex differences using both schemes after correcting for the size of the midsagittal cortex.  Widener students, however, uncovered more sex differences than the UCLA students. Lab instruction for UCLA students occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.  So, lab sessions were completely online.  In contrast, Widener students had the benefit of in-person lab instruction.  Nonetheless, both the data obtained from the images of the corpus callosi as well as measures of pedagogical efficacy were similar between the two institutions, suggesting that distance learning may be a valuable and viable option.  Further, when in person learning is not an option, such as during a pandemic, digital databases serve as invaluable resources for online learning.  When these databases are utilized in a hypothesis driven research setting, they can serve as the basis for course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs), which are known to benefit students—improving retention in science fields.