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Neuroimage. 2009 Jul 15;46(4):904-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.03.048. Epub 2009 Mar 31.

Regional gray matter variation in male-to-female transsexualism.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7334, USA.


Gender identity-one's sense of being a man or a woman-is a fundamental perception experienced by all individuals that extends beyond biological sex. Yet, what contributes to our sense of gender remains uncertain. Since individuals who identify as transsexual report strong feelings of being the opposite sex and a belief that their sexual characteristics do not reflect their true gender, they constitute an invaluable model to understand the biological underpinnings of gender identity. We analyzed MRI data of 24 male-to-female (MTF) transsexuals not yet treated with cross-sex hormones in order to determine whether gray matter volumes in MTF transsexuals more closely resemble people who share their biological sex (30 control men), or people who share their gender identity (30 control women). Results revealed that regional gray matter variation in MTF transsexuals is more similar to the pattern found in men than in women. However, MTF transsexuals show a significantly larger volume of regional gray matter in the right putamen compared to men. These findings provide new evidence that transsexualism is associated with distinct cerebral pattern, which supports the assumption that brain anatomy plays a role in gender identity.

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