Cortical thickness in untreated transsexuals

Cereb Cortex. 2013 Dec;23(12):2855-62. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhs267. Epub 2012 Aug 31.


Sex differences in cortical thickness (CTh) have been extensively investigated but as yet there are no reports on CTh in transsexuals. Our aim was to determine whether the CTh pattern in transsexuals before hormonal treatment follows their biological sex or their gender identity. We performed brain magnetic resonance imaging on 94 subjects: 24 untreated female-to-male transsexuals (FtMs), 18 untreated male-to-female transsexuals (MtFs), and 29 male and 23 female controls in a 3-T TIM-TRIO Siemens scanner. T1-weighted images were analyzed to obtain CTh and volumetric subcortical measurements with FreeSurfer software. CTh maps showed control females have thicker cortex than control males in the frontal and parietal regions. In contrast, males have greater right putamen volume. FtMs had a similar CTh to control females and greater CTh than males in the parietal and temporal cortices. FtMs had larger right putamen than females but did not differ from males. MtFs did not differ in CTh from female controls but had greater CTh than control males in the orbitofrontal, insular, and medial occipital regions. In conclusion, FtMs showed evidence of subcortical gray matter masculinization, while MtFs showed evidence of CTh feminization. In both types of transsexuals, the differences with respect to their biological sex are located in the right hemisphere.

Keywords: cortical thickness; magnetic resonance imaging; sex differences; transsexualism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Putamen / pathology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Transsexualism / pathology*