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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 25, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 21
Trans brains match their gender, not their sex assigned at birth, study shows
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Trans brains match their gender, not their sex assigned at birth, study shows

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Brain activity in Transgender children and teens matches their gender, not the sex they were assigned at birth, according to a new study by Belgian neuroscientist Julie Bakker.

In other words, the brains of Transgender boys match those of cisgender boys, and the brains of Trans girls match those of cis girls.

Bakker's study, based at the University of Liege, involved MRI scans of 160 Transgender children and teens. The scans measure brain activity and microstructures using a technique called diffusion tensor imaging.

Bakker's team then compared the brain scans of the Trans people to those of people of comparable age who were cisgender.

Analysis revealed that distinct neurological markers of gender are detectable during childhood. The researchers said that their technique could be used to help Transgender children at an earlier age.

'Although more research is needed, we now have evidence that sexual differentiation of the brain differs in young people with [gender dysphoria], as they show functional brain characteristics that are typical of their desired gender,' Bakker said.

'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.'

Currently, children who say their gender differs from the one assigned them at birth typically undergo psychotherapy. They can also be given hormones that delay puberty so that decisions on further therapy can be made at an older age.

The study's results, which were presented at the European Society of Endocrinology's meeting in Barcelona, fall in line with previous neurological studies that showed that Transgender adults have similar brain structures to cisgender people of their gender.

About one per cent of the population are estimated to be Transgender, according to the Gender Identity Development Service, although the group says that rates of diagnosis are increasing due to growing public awareness of the issue.

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