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 Changing your sex changes your brain: influences of testosterone and estrogen...



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22.Jul 2009, 17:54
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Changing your sex changes your brain: influences of testosterone and estrogen on adult human brain structure
Hilleke E Hulshoff Pol, Peggy T Cohen-Kettenis1, Neeltje E M Van Haren, Jiska S Peper, Rachel G H Brans, Wiepke Cahn, Hugo G Schnack, Louis J G Gooren2 and René S Kahn

Department of Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, A01.126, Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht, The Netherlands, 1 Department of Medical Psychology and 2 Department of Endocrinology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

(Correspondence should be addressed to H E Hulshoff Pol; Email: h.e.hulshoff@azu.nl)

Abstract

Objective: Sex hormones are not only involved in the formation of reproductive organs, but also induce sexually-dimorphic brain development and organization. Cross-sex hormone administration to transsexuals provides a unique possibility to study the effects of sex steroids on brain morphology in young adulthood.

Methods: Magnetic resonance brain images were made prior to, and during, cross-sex hormone treatment to study the influence of anti-androgen + estrogen treatment on brain morphology in eight young adult male-to-female transsexual human subjects and of androgen treatment in six female-to-male transsexuals.

Results: Compared with controls, anti-androgen + estrogen treatment decreased brain volumes of male-to-female subjects towards female proportions, while androgen treatment in female-to-male subjects increased total brain and hypothalamus volumes towards male proportions.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that, throughout life, gonadal hormones remain essential for maintaining aspects of sex-specific differences in the human brain.
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