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STUDY: Brains of Transgender People Match Those of the Gender They Identify With, Not the One They Were Born As

A new study reveals that the brains of transgender children and adolescents closely resemble the brain chemistry of their preferred gender.

New evidence has shown that the brain activity of transgender individuals closely resembles the brain activity of their identified gender.

In a study of 160 participants, biological males who experience gender dysphoria were shown to have neurological patterns similar to those in biological females. The Belgian study, conducted by Julie Bakker of the University of Liege, used MRIs to scan the brains of children and teenagers who had been previously diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The results demonstrated that the transgender boys’ brain activity resembled that of cisgender boys and transgender girls’ brains resembled cisgender girls.

The MRI tests were designed to examine brain activation upon exposure to specific steroids, as well as measuring gray matter and white matter microstructure using a technique called diffusion tensor imaging.

The results of the study indicate that this kind of research could be used to identify transgender individuals at a younger age.

“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. 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,” said Bakker.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria is defined a conflict between a person’s assigned gender at birth and the gender with which they identify. This discrepancy in identity can lead to feelings of discomfort with their bodies and expected gender roles, causing a notable effect on a person’s self-image.

The new research could likely spark the development of new coping techniques.  Scientists currently believe that gender dysphoria is typically caused by fetal insensitivity to specific hormones during pregnancy. Currently, children and adolescents diagnosed with gender dysphoria receive psychotherapy. The scientific scans would also allow medical professionals to give better, more medically sound advice, in addition to therapy, at a younger age.

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    Chris Heide is the recipient of the Kaplan Award for Narrative Journalism and is the co-Founder and ... keep reading