As researchers continue to dig deeper into our brains they are finding differences in our brains compared to brains of cisgender people, it makes me wonder if gender dysphoria is a Disorder of Sex Development..
Brain scans show trans people feeling at odds with their bodyAs researchers continue to find differences in our brains we have to keep in mind that this might be only one vector of many causes of why we are trans and just because they might not find the same condition in a trans person should not mean that they are not trans. Asking the person if they are trans is still the best way to determine if a person is trans.
The New Scientist
By Helen Thomson
12 October 2016
DIFFERENCES in the brain’s response to touch may explain why transgender people often feel at odds with their anatomy. Information from studies that show this may one day help doctors better help children who identify as trans.
Many trans people feel that parts of their body don’t fit with their gender identity. Those who have surgery to change their anatomy overwhelmingly say they feel more like themselves afterwards.
To see if the way the brain processes body image underlies feelings of body incongruity in trans individuals, Laura Case at the University of California, San Diego, and her colleagues recruited eight volunteers who were anatomically female but identified as male and strongly desired a male anatomy. Eight biologically female people who identify as women were also recruited as a control group.
They found that, in both groups, stimulation of the hand and breast caused areas of the secondary somatosensory cortex to buzz with activity – unsurprising, as this part of the brain is involved in the conscious awareness of touch.
But in the trans group, the activity in this area was significantly lower when their breast was touched compared with their hand (Archives of Sexual Behaviour, doi.org/brnj).
There was also less activity in an area called the supramarginal gyrus. This has been implicated in the ability to attribute a sense of “this belongs to me” to our body parts. For example, stimulating an area close to the supramarginal gyrus can elicit out-of-body experiences. The reduced activity in this area seen in the trans volunteers when the breast is touched suggests that the brain may not treat the breast as strongly belonging to the “self”, says Case.
Case’s study is one of several that have identified neural differences in trans people. For instance, a previous study discovered significant differences between male and female brains in four regions of white matter – and that female-to-male trans individuals who hadn’t had sex reassignment surgery had white matter in these regions that more closely resembled a male brain.
Based on results like these, Case and her colleagues hypothesise that some female-to-male trans individuals may have an internal body representation that is closer to being anatomically male than female. If this is the case, it would mean that when their breast is touched, it is compared with an internal representation that has no female breasts. This mismatch could mean that the sensation isn’t as well integrated into a person’s sense of feeling, leading to a reduced sense of ownership for that part of the body.