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Neuroscience in transgender people : an update

Meltem Kiyar (UGent) , Sarah Collet (UGent) , Guy T'Sjoen (UGent) and Sven Müller (UGent)
(2020) NEUROFORUM. 26(2). p.85-92
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Abstract
Transgender persons identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth. Although describing oneself as transgender is not a new phenomenon, media attention has lately been increasing exponentially, thanks to progressive changes in laws and change in societal attitudes. These changes also allow more people nowadays to (openly) identify as transgender and/or seek gender-affirming treatment. However, simultaneously, not much is presently understood about the underlying neurobiology, and specifically the brain structure and brain function of transgender persons. One major question in neuroimaging and neuroscience has been to determine whether, at the brain level, transgender people resemble more their gender identity, their sex assigned at birth, or have a unique neural profile. Although the evidence is presently inconsistent, it suggests that while the brain structure, at least before hormonal treatment, is more similar to sex assigned at birth, it may shift with hormonal treatment. By contrast, on “sex-stereotypical tasks,” brain function may already be more similar to gender identity in transgender persons, also before receiving gender-affirming hormone treatment. However, studies continue to be limited by small sample sizes and new initiatives are needed to further elucidate the neurobiology of a ‘brain gender’ (sex-dimorphic change according to one’s gender).
Transgender-Personen identifizieren sich mit einem anderen Geschlecht als dem bei der Geburt zugewiesenen. Obwohl Menschen, die sich mit einem anderen Geschlecht identifizieren, kein neues Phänomen sind, so ist die mediale Aufmerksamkeit in den letzten Jahren diesbezüglich exponentiell gestiegen. Dies ist auch den gesetzlichen Verbesserungen und einer Veränderung in der gesellschaftlichen Einstellung zu dem Thema zu verdanken. Zur gleichen Zeit aber weiß man noch nicht viel über die Gehirnstruktur und Gehirnfunktion bei transgender Menschen. Eine Hauptfrage in den Neurowissenschaften ist es, ob die Gehirne von Transgender-Personen jenen ähneln des Geschlechtes, dem sie bei der Geburt zugewiesen wurden, des Geschlechtes mit dem sie sich identifizieren, oder ob sie ein unabhängiges neuronales Profil aufzeigen. Obwohl die Befunde derzeit widersprüchlich sind, zeigen sie in die Richtung, dass sich die Gehirnstruktur vor der hormonellen Behandlung nur unwesentlich verändert. Auf der anderen Seite gleicht die neuronale Aktivität bei “geschlechtstypischen Aufgaben” von Transgender-Personen der neuronalen Aktivität ihres identifizierten Geschlechts (auch schon vor der Hormonbehandlung). Trotzdem sind Studien weiterhin limitiert, da sie oft mit kleinen Stichproben auskommen müssen und neue Initiativen zur Bestätigung der ersten Befunde nötig sind.
Keywords
cross-sex hormones, gender, magnetic resonance imaging, neurobiology, trans, Sexualhormone, Gender, Magnetresonanztomographie, Neurobiologie, trans

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Citation

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MLA
Kiyar, Meltem, et al. “Neuroscience in Transgender People : An Update.” NEUROFORUM, vol. 26, no. 2, 2020, pp. 85–92, doi:10.1515/nf-2020-0007.
APA
Kiyar, M., Collet, S., T’Sjoen, G., & Müller, S. (2020). Neuroscience in transgender people : an update. NEUROFORUM, 26(2), 85–92. https://doi.org/10.1515/nf-2020-0007
Chicago author-date
Kiyar, Meltem, Sarah Collet, Guy T’Sjoen, and Sven Müller. 2020. “Neuroscience in Transgender People : An Update.” NEUROFORUM 26 (2): 85–92. https://doi.org/10.1515/nf-2020-0007.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Kiyar, Meltem, Sarah Collet, Guy T’Sjoen, and Sven Müller. 2020. “Neuroscience in Transgender People : An Update.” NEUROFORUM 26 (2): 85–92. doi:10.1515/nf-2020-0007.
Vancouver
1.
Kiyar M, Collet S, T’Sjoen G, Müller S. Neuroscience in transgender people : an update. NEUROFORUM. 2020;26(2):85–92.
IEEE
[1]
M. Kiyar, S. Collet, G. T’Sjoen, and S. Müller, “Neuroscience in transgender people : an update,” NEUROFORUM, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 85–92, 2020.
@article{8659292,
  abstract     = {{Transgender persons identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth. Although describing oneself as transgender is not a new phenomenon, media attention has lately been increasing exponentially, thanks to progressive changes in laws and change in societal attitudes. These changes also allow more people nowadays to (openly) identify as transgender and/or seek gender-affirming treatment. However, simultaneously, not much is presently understood about the underlying neurobiology, and specifically the brain structure and brain function of transgender persons. One major question in neuroimaging and neuroscience has been to determine whether, at the brain level, transgender people resemble more their gender identity, their sex assigned at birth, or have a unique neural profile. Although the evidence is presently inconsistent, it suggests that while the brain structure, at least before hormonal treatment, is more similar to sex assigned at birth, it may shift with hormonal treatment. By contrast, on “sex-stereotypical tasks,” brain function may already be more similar to gender identity in transgender persons, also before receiving gender-affirming hormone treatment. However, studies continue to be limited by small sample sizes and new initiatives are needed to further elucidate the neurobiology of a ‘brain gender’ (sex-dimorphic change according to one’s gender).}},
  author       = {{Kiyar, Meltem and Collet, Sarah and T'Sjoen, Guy and Müller, Sven}},
  issn         = {{0947-0875}},
  journal      = {{NEUROFORUM}},
  keywords     = {{cross-sex hormones,gender,magnetic resonance imaging,neurobiology,trans,Sexualhormone,Gender,Magnetresonanztomographie,Neurobiologie,trans}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  number       = {{2}},
  pages        = {{85--92}},
  title        = {{Neuroscience in transgender people : an update}},
  url          = {{http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/nf-2020-0007}},
  volume       = {{26}},
  year         = {{2020}},
}

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