Brain sexual differentiation and effects of cross-sex hormone therapy in transpeople: A resting-state functional magnetic resonance study

Nienke M. Nota, Sarah M. Burke, Martin den Heijer, Remi S. Soleman, Cornelis B. Lambalk, Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, Dick J. Veltman, Baudewijntje P. Kreukels*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: It is hypothesized that transpeople show sex-atypical differentiation of the brain. Various structural neuroimaging studies provide support for this notion, but little is known about the sexual differentiation of functional resting-state networks in transpeople. In this study we therefore aimed to determine whether brain functional connectivity (FC) patterns in transpeople are sex-typical or sex-atypical, before and after the start of cross-sex hormone therapy (CHT). Methods: We acquired resting-state functional magnetic resonance data in 36 transpeople (22 with female sex assigned at birth), first during gonadal suppression, and again four months after start of CHT, and in 37 cisgender people (20 females), both sessions without any hormonal intervention. We used independent component analysis to identify the default mode network (DMN), salience network (SN), and left and right working memory network (WMN). These spatial maps were used for group comparisons. Results: Within the DMN, SN, and left WMN similar FC patterns were found across groups. However, within the right WMN, cisgender males showed significantly greater FC in the right caudate nucleus than cisgender females. There was no such sex difference in FC among the transgender groups and they did not differ significantly from either of the cisgender groups. CHT (in transgender participants) and circulating sex steroids (in cisgender participants) did not affect FC. Conclusion: Our findings may suggest that cisgender males and females experience a dissimilar (early) differentiation of the right WMN and that such differentiation is less pronounced in transpeople.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-370
JournalNeurophysiologie Clinique
Volume47
Issue number5-6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

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