Sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity, sexual orientation and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Research output: Chapter in book/volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Gender identity (an individual’s perception of being male or female) and sexual
orientation (heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality) are programmed into
our brain during early development. During the intrauterine period in the second
half of pregnancy, a testosterone surge masculinizes the fetal male brain. If such a
testosterone surge does not occur, this will result in a feminine brain. As sexual
differentiation of the brain takes place at a much later stage in development than
sexual differentiation of the genitals, these two processes can be influenced
independently of each other and can result in gender dysphoria. Nature produces
a great variability for all aspects of sexual differentiation of the brain. Mechanisms involved in sexual differentiation of the brain include hormones, genetics, epigenetics, endocrine disruptors, immune response, and self-organization.
Furthermore, structural and functional differences in the hypothalamus relating to gender dysphoria and sexual orientation are described in this review. All the
genetic, postmortem, and in vivo scanning observations support the neurobiological theory about the origin of gender dysphoria, i.e., it is the sizes of brain structures, the neuron numbers, the molecular composition, functions, and connectivity of brain structures that determine our gender identity or sexual orientation.
There is no evidence that one’s postnatal social environment plays a crucial
role in the development of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeuroscience in the 21st century
Subtitle of host publicationfrom basic to clinical
Edition3rd edition
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022

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