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Inter-Network Brain Functional Connectivity in Adolescents Assigned Female at Birth Who Experience Gender Dysphoria.

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Skorska, Malvina N 
Lobaugh, Nancy J 
Lombardo, Michael V 
van Bruggen, Nina 
Chavez, Sofia 


Gender dysphoria (GD) is characterized by distress due to an incongruence between experienced gender and sex assigned at birth. Brain functional connectivity in adolescents who experience GD may be associated with experienced gender (vs. assigned sex) and/or brain networks implicated in own-body perception. Furthermore, sexual orientation may be related to brain functional organization given commonalities in developmental mechanisms proposed to underpin GD and same-sex attractions. Here, we applied group independent component analysis to resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) BOLD timeseries data to estimate inter-network (i.e., between independent components) timeseries correlations, representing functional connectivity, in 17 GD adolescents assigned female at birth (AFAB) not receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy, 17 cisgender girls, and 15 cisgender boys (ages 12-17 years). Sexual orientation was represented by degree of androphilia-gynephilia and sexual attractions strength. Multivariate partial least squares analyses found that functional connectivity differed among cisgender boys, cisgender girls, and GD AFAB, with the largest difference between cisgender boys and GD AFAB. Regarding sexual orientation and age, the brain's intrinsic functional organization of GD AFAB was both similar to and different from cisgender girls, and both differed from cisgender boys. The pattern of group differences and the networks involved aligned with the hypothesis that brain functional organization is different among GD AFAB (vs. cisgender) adolescents, and certain aspects of this organization relate to brain areas implicated in own-body perception and self-referential thinking. Overall, brain functional organization of GD AFAB was generally more similar to that of cisgender girls than cisgender boys.



adolescence, brain intrinsic functional organization, gender dysphoria, independent component analysis, own-body perception, resting-state fMRI, sexual orientation, Adolescent, Brain, Child, Female, Gender Dysphoria, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Sexual Behavior

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Front Endocrinol (Lausanne)

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Frontiers Media SA