Transgender brains more closely resemble brains of the sex they align with, rather than what they were born with

Gender studies are leaving the college halls and heading into the lab. Increasingly, there have been more rigorous studies into how transgender people neurologically relate to the sex they identify with rather than their biological sex.


Gender studies are leaving the college halls and heading into the lab. Increasingly, there have been more rigorous studies in how transgender people neurologically relate to the sex they identify with rather than their biological sex.  

From genetics to brain activity, scientists are delving into the complicated cultural, neurological and biological aspects of sex and gender. Public discourse can be divisive and often ends up muddling the real scientific inquiry into this subject. It’s a widely interdisciplinary field with many different voices contributing to understanding it in a variety of ways. For example, some people like, Siddhartha Mukherjee, physician and author believes that genes are highly influential in determining attributes of gender and sex identity. He states:

“It is now clear that genes are vastly more influential than virtually any other force in shaping sex identity and gender identity—although in limited circumstances a few attributes of gender can be learned through cultural, social, and hormonal reprogramming.”   

Others believe that they’ve found compelling evidence by studying brain activity in transgender people that closely resembles cisgender people they identify with more than their assigned sex at birth. 

 A study led by a Belgian University found that brain activity correlated to this neurological hypothesis. Read on to find out more about the study itself. 

 Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in Kolkata on July 13, 2014. Hundreds of LGBT activists particpated in the rally to demand equal social and human rights for their community and stop social discrimination. AFP PHOTO/ Dibyangshu Sarkar

Latest research out of University of Liege

Julie Bakker, who led the research, utilized 160 MRI scans of transgender people diagnosed with gender dysphoria when they were either kids or in their teens. These scans also measured the brain’s microstructures with a technique called diffusion tensor imaging.  

After all of these scans were made, they were then compared with people of the same age who had not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The study found that transgender boys’ and transgender girls’ brain activity corresponded to both cisgender boys and girls. The MRI tests examined brain activity after an exposure to a steroid and measured gray matter as well.  

Bakker believes that this research could be used to help children at an earlier day who’re diagnosed with gender dysmorphia. Bakker stated: 

"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.”

The study’s results aligned with previous studies after it was presented at the European Society of Endocrinology. The analysis further revealed that these neurological differences are detectable at a younger age. Scientists believe that with this new research they’ll be able to offer better advice to young people with GD as this is estimated to affect one percent of the population according to the Gender Identity Development Service.  

Former US soldier, whistleblower, transgender Chelsea Manning speaks at the digital media convention 're:publica' in Berlin, on May 2, 2018. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Further corroboration with other studies

With mounting studies claiming to be able to determine gender through brain scans, many people feel that this would be a great way to help them understand their identity. The neurological activity could be a way of objectively telling what a person defines themselves as from their brain.  

In the University of California, San Diego – Laura Case also wanted to test the same idea with an MRI. Laura tested eight trans men (biologically female) against eight cisgender women – who were used as a control group.  

Laura found that the trans men had lessened activity in a region of the brain called the supramarginal gyrus. This is an area in the brain which is responsible for giving us a sense of what body parts belong to us. The results may propose that this is less active in transgendered people.

Eventually, more research is planned as gender identity could one day be determined by brain scans alone – if these studies hold up to peer review and scientific scrutiny.

Tesla introduces new Model 3 at $45,000

The new version's battery has a shorter range and a price $4,000 lower than the previous starting price.

Tesla Model 3 (Photo: Tesla)
Technology & Innovation
  • Tesla's new version of the Model 3 costs $45,000 and can travel 260 miles on one charge.
  • The Model 3 is the best-selling luxury car in the U.S.
  • Tesla still has yet to introduce a fully self-driving car, even though it once offered the capability as an option to be installed at a future date.
Keep reading Show less

Denmark has the flattest work hierarchy in the world

"It's about having employees that are empowered."

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
popular

Denmark may be the birthplace of the Lego tower, but its workplace hierarchy is the flattest in the world.

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2018, the nation tops an index measuring "willingness to delegate authority" at work, beating 139 other countries.

Keep reading Show less

The surprising psychology of sex with your ex

We all know sleeping with your ex is a bad idea, or is it?

Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • In the first study of its kind, researchers have found sex with an ex didn't prevent people from getting over their relationship.
  • Instead of feeling worse about their breakup after a hookup, the new singles who attempted sexual contact with their ex reported feeling better afterwards.
  • The findings suggest that not every piece of relationship advice is to be taken at face value.
Keep reading Show less

Relationship hack: Why class clowns make better partners

Want a happy, satisfying relationship? Psychologists say the best way is to learn to take a joke.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • New research looks at how partners' attitudes toward humor affects the overall quality of a relationship.
  • Out of the three basic types of people, people who love to be laughed at made for better partners.
  • Fine-tuning your sense of humor might be the secret to a healthy, happy, and committed relationship.
Keep reading Show less

Yes, Mega Millions just passed $1 billion. What does that look like?

It's hard to imagine such a number. But these images will help you try.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Megamillions_tickets.jpg
News/Social

The Mega Millions lottery just passed $1 billion for tonight's drawing.

What does that even look like, when represented by various currencies?

It takes just 6 numbers to win. You can only, however, purchase tickets up until 10:45 ET tonight.

Keep reading Show less

Single algae cells can help deliver targeted medicine

Tiny and efficient, these biodegradable single cells show promise as a way to target hard-to-reach cancers.

Credit: O. Yasa et al./Adv. Mater.
Surprising Science
  • Scientists in Germany have found a potential improvement on the idea of bacteria delivering medicine.
  • This kind of microtargeting could be useful in cancer treatments.
  • The microswimmers are biodegradable and easy to produce.

Metin Sitti and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently demonstrated that tiny drugs could be attached to individual algae cells and that those algae cells could then be directed through body-like fluid by a magnetic field.

The results were recently published in Advanced Materials, and the paper as a whole offers up a striking portrait of precision and usefulness, perhaps loosely comparable in overall quality to recent work done by The Yale Quantum Institute. It begins by noting that medicine has been attached to bacteria cells before, but bacteria can multiply and end up causing more harm than good.

A potential solution to the problem seems to have been found in an algal cell: the intended object of delivery is given a different electrical charge than the algal cell, which helps attach the object to the cell. The movement of the algae was then tested in 2D and 3D. (The study calls this cell a 'microswimmer.') It would later be found that "3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers increased more than twofold compared to their 2D mean swimming speed." The study continues —

More interestingly, 3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers in the presence of a uniform magnetic field in the x-direction was approximately threefolds higher than their 2D mean swimming speed.

After the 2D and 3D speed of the algal was examined, it was then tested in something made to approximate human fluid, including what they call 'human tubal fluid' (think of the fallopian tubes), plasma, and blood. They then moved to test the compatibility of the microswimmer with cervical cancer cells, ovarian cancer cells, and healthy cells. They found that the microswimmer didn't follow the path of bacteria cells and create something toxic.

The next logical steps from the study include testing this inside a living organism in order to assess the safety of the procedure. Potential future research could include examining how effective this method of drug delivery could be in targeting "diseases in deep body locations," as in, the reproductive and gastrointestinal tracts.

Gary Shteyngart: reality catches up to dystopian fiction

Our modern-day Kafka on his new novel Lake Success and the dark comedy that in 2018 pretty much writes itself

Technology & Innovation
  • riding the Greyhounds of hell, from New York to El Paso
  • the alternate reality of hedge fund traders
Keep reading Show less

How lifelong learning makes you shine in the job market

Here's why the school you went to is less relevant than ever.

Videos
  • Learning agility is the ability to learn new things quickly and be aware of the trends that are emerging in your industry. It's the most important job skill hiring managers should be looking for and job seekers should be putting forward, says Kelly Palmer.
  • Want to test your learning agility? Answer this practice interview question: "What did you learn last week?"
  • Hiring people based on the school they went to is less relevant than ever. Why? Palmer explains: "If I asked you, "Tell me about your health," and you told me you ran a marathon 10 years ago, does that really tell me what your health is like? Not really." It's what you can offer now and how agile you are that matters.
  • Kelly Palmer is the author of The Expertise Economy.