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J Urol. 2002 Nov;168(5):2142-8.

Androgen imprinting of the brain in animal models and humans with intersex disorders: review and recommendations.

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Surgical Department, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



Psychosexual development, gender assignment and surgical treatment in patients with intersex are controversial issues in the medical literature. Some groups are of the opinion that gender identity and sexual orientation are determined prenatally secondary to the fetal hormonal environment causing irreversible development of the nervous system. We reviewed the evidence in animal and human studies to determine the possible role of early postnatal androgen production in gender development.


An extensive literature review was performed of data from animal experiments and human studies. RESULTS Many animal studies show that adding or removing hormonal stimulus in early postnatal life can profoundly alter gender behavior of the adult animal. Human case studies show that late intervention is unable to reverse gender orientation from male to female. Most studies have not permitted testing of whether early gender assignment and treatment as female with suppression/ablation of postnatal androgen production leads to improved concordance of the gender identity and sex of rearing.


Animal studies support a role for postnatal androgens in brain/behavior development with human studies neither completely supportive nor antagonistic. Therefore, gender assignment in infants with intersex should be made with the possibility in mind that postnatal testicular hormones at ages 1 to 6 months may affect gender identity. A case-control study is required to test the hypothesis that postnatal androgen exposure may convert ambisexual brain functions to committed male behavior patterns.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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