Is There Something Unique about the Transgender Brain? – Scientific American Thinks So

By September 28, 2017Education, Informative
Is There Something Unique about the Transgender Brain? - Scientific American Thinks So

We know that someone suffering from Gender Dysphoria is unique in their thought processes and how they perceive their body. However, is there something unique about the brain of a transgender person that makes them the way they are?

A recent article posted in Scientific American Mind, by Francine Russo, did some research on that very question. She found that transgenderism is a phenomenon that originates in the brain. The numerous brain scans she conducted don’t necessarily reflect gender identity, but they indicate a person’s sexual orientation instead. She describes the brain as either male or female. Interestingly enough, she isn’t the only person making such claims. There have been numerous studies with similar findings.

The Shifts In Mental Processes

The Shifts In Mental Processes

There is a biological difference between a male and female that we can see. However, are there differences that we cannot see? Many people claim that the thought processes of men and women are entirely different. Does that mean that a transgender person gets stuck in the middle of all those different ideas?

There are non-learned features of both the body and brain that differentiates sex. Many of the people who were scanned for these tests were transsexuals, and they were found to be in-between on these key features. There was a shift from what would be typical for their sex. They gravitated towards the other gender mentally. By itself, this is substantial evidence that transsexuality in a male is caused by having a brain that has female features, and a sex-at- birth female would have male brain functions.

Does this explain it all? If only it were that simple. However, gay men and women also show the same shifts. So, these differences are not just for the transgender crowd, but they can also fit the description of others too. Some say that a simple scan isn’t going to prove much because gender is more complicated than that, but it certainly is leading researchers in the right direction.

The Brain’s Difficult Patchwork

Backing Science With More Proof

Daphna Joel, who is a behavior neuroscientist at Tel Aviv University, disagrees with the report by Russo. His studies found that the brain doesn’t separate into male and female compartments. Rather, the brain is a unique patchwork that is difficult to see. Some people are more male than others, and some are more female than others. His information could affect how scientist studies the brain, and it can also show how society defines gender.

Using previously taken brain scans, they looked at the gray and white matter to notate differences. More than 1,400 scans were studied, all from reported transgenders. They also looked at the brain with diffusion tensor imaging. The imaging machine shows how traces of white matter goes throughout the brain and connects various regions. They found that brains that have a constant male-female continuum are rare.

Most brains tend to be more of a mosaic group of features. In some, they were more commonly female, while other brains were more commonly male. The final verdict is that consistency in the human brain is rare. Sure, there are sex/gender differences, but they can’t be easily described, and it is hard to put a label on it.

Backing Science With More Proof

Antonio Guillamon, a professor from the National Distance Education University in Madrid, used an MRI to look at 24 female-to- male brains and 18 male-to- female brains. He studied them before and after they had received hormonal treatment, otherwise known as t-shots.

Before the treatment, the structure of the brain of the transgender individual was more of the gender they prefer. This was significant that they gravitated toward the sex they desired more than their natural gender. For instance, a female that identifies as a male had to think with subcortical areas, which is common in men more than women. Also, the male-to- female participants had thinner cortical regions in the right hemisphere, which is a known characteristic of the female
brain. After taking hormonal therapy to help in the transition, the differences became more pronounced.

The Future of Diagnosis Looks Bright

Another study conducted by the King’s College in London suggest that these differences can be seen in a child as young as three years of age. So, the weight of these studies and other various points show that there is a healthy brain related basis for gender dysphoria. However, due to the variety of people that classify in this category, and the variations in men and women’s brains, it will be a long time before anyone can run an MRI and tell if their child is trans.

Still, the fact that there might be a fundamental cause for this condition is promising to those who suffer from being in a body that doesn’t feel natural. In time, doctors may be able to identify this condition at an early age and take steps to prevent the alienation, suicides, and depression that is experienced by so many of these individuals.