NEWS AND PRESS RELEASES

Transgender brains are more like their desired gender from an early age

May 2018

Brain activity and structure in transgender adolescents more closely resembles the typical activation patterns of their desired gender, according to findings to be presented in Barcelona, at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting, ECE 2018. These findings suggest that differences in brain function may occur early in development and that brain imaging may be a useful tool for earlier identification of transgenderism in young people.

Transgenderism is the experience, or identification with, a gender different to the assigned biological sex, whilst gender dysphoria (GD) is the distress experienced by transgender people, and may be present from a very young age. Although GD incidence is rare, gender identity is an essential part of psychological health, and if unaddressed can lead to serious psychological issues. Current strategies for addressing GD in younger people involve psychotherapy, or delaying puberty with hormones, so that decisions on transgender therapy can be made at an older age. Genetics and hormones contribute to sex differences in brain development and function that lead to more male- or female-typical characteristics; however, these processes are not well established. Furthermore, little is known on how early in life, or to what extent, the gender-typical characteristics of transgender people become established. Earlier diagnosis or better understanding of transgenderism could help to improve quality of life for young transgender people, and help families to make more informed decisions on treatment.

In this study, Dr. Julie Bakker from the University of Liège, Belgium, and her colleagues from the Center of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria at the VU University Medical Center, the Netherlands, examined sex differences in the brain activation patterns of young transgender people. The study included both adolescent boys and girls with gender dysphoria and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to assess brain activation patterns in response to a pheromone known to produce gender-specific activity. The pattern of brain activation in both transgender adolescent boys and girls more closely resembled that of non-transgender boys and girls of their desired gender. In addition, GD adolescent girls showed a male-typical brain activation pattern during a visual/spatial memory exercise. Finally, some brain structural changes were detected that were also more similar, but not identical, to those typical of the desired gender of GD boys and girls.

Dr Bakker says, “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.”

Dr Bakker’s research will now investigate the role of hormones during puberty on brain development and transgender differences, to help guide and improve future diagnosis and therapy for GD adolescents.

Dr Bakker comments, “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.”

---Ends---
The symposium “Brain structure and function in gender dysphoria” took place on 22 May 2018, at the European Congress of Endocrinology at the Centre Convencions Internacional Barcelona, Spain.
The European Congress of Endocrinology was held at Centre Convencions Internacional Barcelona, Spain on the 19-22 May 2018. See the full scientific programme.
The European Society of Endocrinology was created to promote research, education and clinical practice in endocrinology by the organisation of conferences, training courses and publications, by raising public awareness, liaison with national and international legislators, and by any other appropriate means.

Press

Obesity risk may be increased by exposure to common environmental chemicals
Setting fair regulations for top female athletes that have naturally higher testosterone levels
Environmental toxins can impair sexual development and fertility of future generations
Sleep problems in teenagers reversed in just one week by limiting screen use
Men ignore serious health risks of steroid abuse in pursuit of the body beautiful
Breastfeeding reduces long-term risk of heart disease in mothers
Mentally tiring work may increase diabetes risk in women
Antioxidants may prevent cognitive impairment in diabetes
Skin inflammation may increase your risk of type-2 diabetes
Debate - Is the gut or the brain more important in regulating appetite and metabolism?
Routine vitamin B12 screening may prevent irreversible nerve damage in type-2 diabetes
Good nutrition could protect children from cognitive difficulties caused by early-life stress
Women more resilient to extreme physical activity than previously reported
Oestrogens in cows’ milk are unlikely to pose a threat to adult health
Diabetic patients are more at risk of death from alcohol, accidents and suicide
Too much vitamin A may increase risk of bone fractures
Vitamin D supplements may promote weight loss in obese children
Vitamin B supplements may protect kidney function in children with diabetes
Bad habits in childhood may lead to an ‘unhealthy’ balance of gut bacteria and increase health risks in later life
Lord Robert Winston cautions that advances in infertility therapies may be hindered by over-regulation
New link identified between inflammation and depression in type-1 diabetes
Walking a tightrope: universal thyroid testing could reduce pregnancy problems in some cases, but interfere with healthy pregnancies in others
Brain stimulation may reduce food cravings as obesity treatment
Larger waistlines are linked to higher risk of vitamin D deficiency
Transgender brains are more like their desired gender from an early age
Could intermittent fasting diets increase diabetes risk?
Minimising exposure to common hormone-disrupting chemicals may reduce obesity rates
Brain development disorders in children linked to common environmental toxin exposures
Children born to mothers with low vitamin D levels may develop autism-like behaviours
Over-the-counter antihistamines linked to impaired fertility in men
Arthritis drug can lower sugar levels in diabetes
Potential new target for reducing osteoporosis risk in men
Successful male infertility treatment does not lower fertility of sons
Warm temperatures can lead to misdiagnosis of diabetes in pregnancy
Guidelines for management of recurrent pituitary tumours recommend new drug as first line treatment
Taking paracetamol during pregnancy may reduce fertility of daughters
Link found between morning sickness, smoking and healthy pregnancies
High fat diet during childhood may increase PCOS risk later in life
Early pregnancy test for cows improves welfare and food production
International collaboration release revised guideline for improved management of Turner syndrome
Treating PCOS with a combination of oral contraceptives and spironolactone does not increase the risk of diabetes or heart disease
Vitamin D supplements could help pain management
Breast cancer risk is more affected by total body fat than abdominal fat
New nanotechnology application for difficult-to-treat cancers
Just six months of frequent exercise improves men’s sperm quality
Consuming more than two soft drinks a day can double risk of diabetes
Age-related scarring in ovaries may explain reproductive decline
Happy cows make more nutritious milk
Third of pregnant women iron deficient; risk thyroid-related pregnancy complications
New recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of Adrenal Incidentalomas published in the European Journal of Endocrinology
Sitting down for long periods when pregnant linked to weight gain and depression
New drug provides safer alternative to conventional IVF treatment
Enzyme potential target for fight against obesity and diabetes
Bursts of high-intensity exercise could help diabetes patients manage low blood sugar levels
Soybean foods may protect menopausal women against osteoporosis
Vitamin D pill a day may improve exercise performance and lower risk of heart disease
Diabetes associated with increased risk of serious bacterial blood infection
Breast cancer risk higher in women with overactive thyroid
Injection of appetite gene may offer a more effective alternative to dieting
Hyperthyroidism could be great cost to countries in disability benefits
Mother’s hormone levels predict child’s ability to do maths