Neural Correlates of Gender Face Perception in Transgender People

Alessandra Daphne Fisher, Jiska Ristori, Giovanni Castellini, Carlotta Cocchetti, Emanuele Cassioli, Stefano Orsolini, Carolina Sensi, Alessia Romani, Francesca Mazzoli, Agnese Cipriani, Valdo Ricca, Linda Vignozzi, Maria Pia Viggiano, Mario Mascalchi, Mario Maggi, Gioele Gavazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

To date, MRI studies focused on brain sexual dimorphism have not explored the presence of specific neural patterns in gender dysphoria (GD) using gender discrimination tasks. Considering the central role of body image in GD, the present study aims to evaluate brain activation patterns with 3T-scanner functional MRI (fMRI) during gender face discrimination task in a sample of 20 hormone-naïve transgender and 20 cisgender individuals. Additionally, participants were asked to complete psychometric measures. The between-group analysis of average blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) activations of female vs. male face contrast showed a significant positive cluster in the bilateral precuneus in transmen when compared to the ciswomen. In addition. the transwomen group compared to the cismen showed higher activations also in the precuneus, as well as in the posterior cingulate gyrus, the angular gyrus and the lateral occipital cortices. Moreover, the activation of precuneus, angular gyrus, lateral occipital cortices and posterior cingulate gyrus was significantly associated with higher levels of body uneasiness. These results show for the first time the existence of a possible specific GD-neural pattern. However, it remains unclear if the differences in brain phenotype of transgender people may be the result of a sex-atypical neural development or of a lifelong experience of gender non-conformity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Volume9
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 3 2020

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