Lets face it we are nothing but a bunch of guinea pigs to researchers, they want to find out what makes us tick. Is it in our genes? Is it something prenatal? Is it nurture?
Researcher explores links between transgender brain and gender identityI am always leery of research in what makes us tick but at the same time I am fascinated in what they find.
Understanding the brain structure of transgender people could help tailor care and support, says recent USC grad and neuroscientist Jonathan Vanhoecke.
By Eric Lindberg
July 15, 2019
What can looking at the brains of transgender people tell us about the physical and mental health resources they might need?
Not very much — yet.
But that is starting to change, said Jonathan Vanhoecke, a budding expert in neuroimaging and transgender identity who recently completed his master’s degree in neuroimaging and informatics at the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute. He’s on the leading edge of a new wave of research into the relationship between brain structure and function and gender identity, especially when that identity doesn’t match a person’s physical body.
“We aren’t able to use brain scans yet to help tailor hormonal and other treatments,” he said. “But perhaps in the future we will, and that’s one of the reasons I’m so attracted to this research field. The implications are enormous.”
Understanding how their brains develop and change as transgender people grow up could help doctors and other health professionals provide better treatment and support.
“For the first time, the field is really galvanized around studying this issue together,” said Paul Thompson, a USC professor, associate director of the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute and leader of the ENIGMA [Enhancing Neuro Imagining Genetics through Meta Analysis] network*. “The better we are able to understand sources of stress and individual differences in transgender people, the better we are able to be sensitive and understand their different needs and experiences.”
So far, results from the few existing studies are inconclusive, Vanhoecke said. Some evidence suggests differences in gender identity could be linked to ways the brain develops in childhood and adolescence, and that the observed patterns correspond to gender identity. Other studies have indicated that neural patterns generally match the sex a person is assigned at birth. Yet other studies found evidence that doesn’t seem to support either of these, but rather that there are unique neural patterns in transgender people.There is one thing that I have learned in life, mother nature likes to experiment and if they find a cause or indicator of why we are trans, we have to realize that they found only one reason why we’re trans and that there maybe a whole host of other reasons.
My concern is that some insurance company or some politician will say you can’t be trans because you don’t have this indicator.
We are still the best judge of is we are trans. Ask us and not some test.
*ENIGMA Transgender Persons
The goal of the ENIGMA transgender research group is to explore, by virtue of imaging-based mega-analysis, the underlying neurobiology of transgenderism.
The transgender group was founded in October 2017 and is welcoming new members.
Current ENIGMA-Transgeneder Persons participating members include:
- Amsterdam University Medical Center (Baudewijntje Kreukels, Sarah Burke, Mathilde Kennis), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- University of Vienna (Rupert Lanzenberger, Rene Seiger, Georg Kranz), Vienna, Austria
- Madrid National Distance Education University (Antonio Guillamon), Madrid, Spain
- University of Deusto (Leire Zubiaurre Elorza), Bilbao, Spain
- Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre (Maiko Schneider), Porto Alegre, Brazil
- University of Mashhad (Behzad Khorashad, Behnaz Khazee), Mashhad, Iran
- University of California Los Angeles (Eric Vilain, Francisco Sánchez), LA, USA
- University of Auckland (Eileen Luders), Auckland, New Zealand
- University of Muenster (Dominik Grotegerd, Udo Dannlowski, Carsten Konrad), Muenster, Germany
- University Clinic RWTH Aachen (Ute Habel, Mikhail Votinov), Aachen, Germany
- University of Florence (Alessandra Fisher, Mario Mascalchi, Gioele Gavazzi, Stefano Orsolini, Mario Maggi, Jiska Ristori, Giovanni Castellini), Florence, Italy
- University of Ghent (Sven Mueller, Guy T’Sjoen), Ghent, Belgium
- University of Southern California (Arthur Toga), LA, USA
- University of Barcelona (Carme Junque, Esther Gómez-Gil, Carme Uribe, Giusseppina Rametti, Beatriz Carrillo, Gloria Aranda, Mireia Porta, Angel Gómez, Eduardo Pásaro, Rosa Fernández), Barcelona, Spain