jump to navigation

Brains: Males, Transgender and Hormone Therapy September 26, 2009

Posted by Geekgirl in brain.
Tags: ,

These researchers studied the brains of three groups of individuals:  men who are not transgender, MtF transgender individuals before hormone therapy and MtF after hormone therapy.

Bottom line: The brains of the MtF Transsexuals were different from the brains of men who are not transsexual, and these differences appear before hormone therapy and stay that way after hormone therapy.

Also, please do not be offended by the language. I know this is a tough one. Scientists, sadly, are still using words like abnormalities and gender identity disorder. For scientists, these words do not carry judgment. But I know that for the rest of us, they do. There are scientists out there trying to change the language to more accurately reflect that these differences are not abnormalities. Just because something occurs infrequently, doesn’t make it abnormal.

Neuroimaging Differences in Spatial Cognition between Men and Male-to-Female Transsexuals Before and During Hormone Therapy.

Schöning S, Engelien A, Bauer C, Kugel H, Kersting A, Roestel C, Zwitserlood P, Pyka M, Dannlowski U, Lehmann W, Heindel W, Arolt V, Konrad C.

Journal of Sex Med. 2009 Sep 14. [Epub ahead of print]

Department of Psychiatry, University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany.


Introduction. Neuropsychological abnormalities in transsexual patients have been reported in comparison with subjects without gender identity disorder (GID), suggesting differences in underlying neurobiological processes. However, these results have not consistently been confirmed. Furthermore, studies on cognitive effects of cross-sex hormone therapy also yield heterogeneous results.

Aim. We hypothesized that untreated transsexual patients differ from men without GID in activation pattern associated with a mental rotation task and that these differences may further increase after commencing of hormonal treatment.

Method. The present study investigated 11 male-to-female transsexual (MFTS) patients prior to cross-sex hormone therapy and 11 MFTS patients during hormone therapy in comparison with healthy men without GID. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3-Tesla, a mental rotation paradigm with proven sexual dimorphism was applied to all subjects. Data were analyzed with SPM5.

Main Outcome Measures. Patterns of brain activation associated with a mental rotation task.

Results. The classical mental rotation network was activated in all three groups, but significant differences within this network were observed. Men without GID exhibited significantly greater activation of the left parietal cortex (BA 40), a key region for mental rotation processes. Both transsexual groups revealed stronger activation of temporo-occipital regions in comparison with men without GID.

Conclusions. Our results confirmed previously reported deviances of brain activation patterns in transsexual men from men without GID and also corroborated these findings in a group of transsexual patients receiving cross-sex hormone therapy. The present study indicates that there are a priori differences between men and transsexual patients caused by different neurobiological processes or task-solving strategies and that these differences remain stable over the course of hormonal treatment.

PMID: 19751389 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]



1. Twitter Trackbacks for Brains: Males, Transgendered and Hormone Therapy « LGBT Latest Science [lgbtlatestscience.wordpress.com] on Topsy.com - September 27, 2009

[…] Brains: Males, Transgendered and Hormone Therapy « LGBT Latest Science lgbtlatestscience.wordpress.com/2009/09/26/brains-males-transgendered-and-hormone-therapy – view page – cached These researchers studied the brains of men, MtF Transsexuals before hormone therapy and after hormone therapy. — From the page […]

2. Kim - September 27, 2009

“the brains of men who are not transsexual”…. what about the right words? Transsexual men? Or are you able to respect that these people ARE women?

Hey Jude - September 27, 2009

Hi Kim
Do we have a misunderstanding or did I miss something? Because if I do miss something, I sincerely appreciate being educated. Perhaps I didn’t write clearly enough. Men who are not transsexual are….. men. The post starts with MtF. Perhaps I should have spelled that out as Male to Female. And yes I do know transgendered is the preferred term.

The men who are not transgendered serve as a control group. It’s the only way to know if MtF individuals hare brains that are different than straight men.

Did that help? Thanks for stopping by and I hope you come back.

Lianne - September 28, 2009

I think the problem is with the implication that MtF individuals are ‘transsexual men.’

Hey Jude - September 28, 2009

Hi Lianne
Yea… they’re not. I hear you. I have a few colleagues who work specifically in this area, I’m going to ask them for some help on terminology – scientific versus transgender culture.
Thanks for stopping by Lianne.

H - September 28, 2009

Actually, the study abstract here didn’t say whether all the cismen were straight, and also didn’t say whether all the transwomen were sexually attracted to men. So we don’t know if the scientists were out to compare straight men with straight transwomen.

Hey Jude - September 28, 2009

Hi Hsudol
You are absolutely right about the study size, it is small. That’s always a danger. This is only the abstract and I did not have free access to the whole paper. Sometimes papers move into Open Access after about six months. I’ll keep an eye out for it.
Thanks so much for commenting.

Laura R. - September 29, 2009

On the contrary, transsexual is the preferred term. Transgender is an umbrella term that can mean almost anything these days.

Laura R. - September 29, 2009

There are many times more transgendered people than there are transsexuals. Most transgendered people would never want sex reassignment surgery. Of transgendered people, only the rare exception would even consider it, and many of them become regretters if they get it.

Hey Jude - September 29, 2009

Hi Laura
Thanks for your comments. It would be nice to see a large study of transgender/transsexual individuals. In one small study that you can find on this site, those that had gender reassignment surgery did not regret it. Perhaps they were well counselled to begin with.
As you can see, this is not a simple topic.
Thanks for stopping by.

3. Brains: Males, Transgendered and Hormone Therapy « LGBT Latest Science | mydoctorblog - September 27, 2009

[…] Read the original post:  Brains: Males, Transgendered and Hormone Therapy « LGBT Latest Science […]

KAT - September 27, 2009

MTF are transwomen NOT transmen. Whether or not a man is straight or not has no bearing on their gender identity. Cis men or bio-men are male bodies with male minds.

4. Tonya - September 27, 2009

Im glad to see more and more research happening. It really seems there has been a wave of scientific studies being done on transsexual individuals as of late, and this is very uplifting and vindicating for me personally.

Thanks for sharing this.

5. H - September 28, 2009

I think the sample size for this study (11 in each group) is too small to have any conclusive results, unfortunately. The sample is not random, and we don’t know if the scientists had certain standards about who they defined as “really” MTF–we don’t know if they only included transwomen who had wanted or had had vaginoplasty.

Laura R. - September 29, 2009

Hopefully the scientists realized that if they didn’t want vaginoplasty, they weren’t really transsexuals.

6. Hedo - September 28, 2009

“Just because something occurs infrequently, doesn’t make it abnormal.”

Um…no. By definition, abnormality is something that simply isn’t normal; that is, something that, indeed, does not happen frequently. I think the problem lies with the use of “abnormal” as a word that supposedly means defective or inferior.

Hey Jude - September 28, 2009

I agree. I think defective or inferior do come to mind when words like abnormal are used. I personally prefer to describe something by how frequently it occurs, rather than words like abnormal. As a scientist, abnormal does imply that the function is different and usually damaging, rather than just occuring at a low frequency.
Thanks for the insight Hedo.

7. Leona Allen - October 6, 2009

I cannot speak for the entire transgender community, and neither can anyone else.
I am transsexual. I respect and honor those in the transgender community, but I am transsexual. When I get my GRS, I will be a woman.
terms are only objectionable when they are foisted upon us.
I won’t speak on your behalf. I sincerely appreciate a reciprocal level of respect .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: