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Letters to Nature
Nature 378, 68 - 70 (02 November 1995); doi:10.1038/378068a0

A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality

Jiang-Ning Zhou*, Michel A. Hofman*, Louis J. G. Gooren & Dick F. Swaab*

*Graduate School Neurosciences Amsterdam, Netherlands Institute for Brain Research, Meibergdreef 33, 1105 AZ Amsterdam ZO, The Netherlands
Department of Endocrinology, Free University Hospital, 1007 MB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
To whom correspondence should be addressed.

TRANSSEXUALS have the strong feeling, often from childhood onwards, of having been born the wrong sex. The possible psycho-genie or biological aetiology of transsexuality has been the subject of debate for many years1,2. Here we show that the volume of the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc), a brain area that is essential for sexual behaviour3,4, is larger in men than in women. A female-sized BSTc was found in male-to-female transsexuals. The size of the BSTc was not influenced by sex hormones in adulthood and was independent of sexual orientation. Our study is the first to show a female brain structure in genetically male transsexuals and supports the hypothesis that gender identity develops as a result of an interaction between the developing brain and sex hormones5,6.

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