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Keywords:

  • gender identity disorder;
  • single-photon emission computed tomography;
  • statistical parametric mapping;
  • transsexuality

Aims:  Despite a range of research on gender identity disorder (GID), at present there is no scientific consensus on whether the etiology of GID is mental or physical. In particular recent advances in the technology of neuroimaging research have led to an increased understanding of the biological basis of various mental disorders. GID also should be evaluated from this perspective. The aim of the present study was therefore to do the first trial to examine the regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in GID.

Methods:  Persons considered biologically male fulfilling the GID criteria are termed male to female (MTF) and, conversely, persons considered biological female are termed female to male (FTM). We compared 11 FTM subjects and nine age- and handedness-matched female control subjects. None of the subjects was regularly taking medication and none had any kind of physical or psychiatric comorbidity. To evaluate rCBF in GID subjects and control subjects, statistical parametric mapping analysis of 99mTc-ethyl-cysteinate dimer single-photon emission computed tomography was used.

Results:  GID subjects had a significant decrease in rCBF in the left anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and a significant increase in the right insula compared to control subjects.

Conclusions:  The ACC and insula are regions that have been noted as being related to human sexual behavior and consciousness. From these findings, useful insights into the biological basis of GID were suggested.