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Int Rev Psychiatry. 2016;28(1):120-8. doi: 10.3109/09540261.2015.1113163. Epub 2016 Jan 14.

Neuroimaging studies in people with gender incongruence.

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a VU University Medical Centre, Department of Medical Psychology, Centre of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research , Amsterdam , the Netherlands ;
b Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia (UNED) , Departamento de Psicobiologia , Madrid , Spain.


The current review gives an overview of brain studies in transgender people. First, we describe studies into the aetiology of feelings of gender incongruence, primarily addressing the sexual differentiation hypothesis: does the brain of transgender individuals resemble that of their natal sex, or that of their experienced gender? Findings from neuroimaging studies focusing on brain structure suggest that the brain phenotypes of trans women (MtF) and trans men (FtM) differ in various ways from control men and women with feminine, masculine, demasculinized and defeminized features. The brain phenotypes of people with feelings of gender incongruence may help us to figure out whether sex differentiation of the brain is atypical in these individuals, and shed light on gender identity development. Task-related imaging studies may show whether brain activation and task performance in transgender people is sex-atypical. Second, we review studies that evaluate the effects of cross-sex hormone treatment on the brain. This type of research provides knowledge on how changes in sex hormone levels may affect brain structure and function.


Gender dysphoria; activating effects; cross-sex hormone treatment; gender identity development; organizing effects; sexual differentiation; transgender; transsexual

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