People with gender dysphoria (GD) have a different brain than individuals that don’t identify as a different gender. A new MRI study conducted by scientists shows that the brains of transgender children are different.
Researchers discovered that the transgender people that identify as women have similar brains to women and not men. The same goes for women that identify themselves as males – their brains are more similar to a man’s than to a woman’s.
The study was performed at the University of Liege in Belgium. Researchers analyzed 160 children with gender dysphoria and children without the condition. They used an MRI scan to see detailed images of their brains.
Matching the Brain Of the Preferred Gender
Dr. Julie Bakker is the lead author of the study. She explains what they saw in the MRI scans:
‘Brain structure and function in gender dysphoria’ revealed the brains of those with gender dysphoria have both structural and neurological patterns that match the brains of those of their preferred genders. We found that hypothalamic responses of both adolescent girls and boys diagnosed with gender dysphoria were more similar to their experienced gender than their birth sex.”
Their findings add to the hypothesis that the brain has a “sex-atypical differentiation” in the individuals with gender dysphoria.
Looking at the gray matter volumes and white matter of the brain, scientists looked at similarities between the brains of cis-gender and trans-gender individuals. Trans brains had a similar volume to the brains of the preferred gender. MRI scans showed that they were different from what they should normally be.
Researchers also exposed the brain to a steroid called androstadienone, that has an effect of a pheromone, showing similar results.
The study was recently presented at the European Society of Endocrinology in Barcelona.
A Better Way to Support Young People With GD
Bakker explained in an interview that they will need to continue their research. However, they have proof that people with gender dysphoria have a different brain characteristic:
“Although more research is needed, we now have evidence that sexual differentiation of the brain differs in young people with GD, as they show functional brain characteristics that are typical of their desired gender.”
She also suggested that their study can help everyone understand people with GD:
“We will then be better equipped to support these young people, instead of just sending them to a psychiatrist and hoping that their distress will disappear spontaneously.”
The study will continue, searching for information on how hormones affect the development of the brain during puberty. Right now, young people with GD can get therapy and hormone treatment. This way, they can delay their hormones and make a decision when they grow older.
This is the second study that found similar results. In march, the University of São Paulo’s Medical School found the same reactions in the brains of people with GD and cis-gender people.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere