A new theory of gender dysphoria incorporating the distress, social behavioral, and body-ownership networks

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3 Scopus citations


When postmortem studies related to transgender individuals were first published, little was known about the function of the various identified nuclei. Now, over 2 decades later, significant progress has been made associating function with specific brain regions, as well as in identifying networks associated with groups of behaviors. However, much of this progress has not been integrated into the general conceptualization of gender dysphoria in humans. I hypothesize that in individuals with gender dysphoria, the aspects of chronic distress, gender atypical behavior, and incongruence between perception of gender identity and external primary sex characteristics are all directly related to functional differences in associated brain networks. I evaluated previously published neuroscience data related to these aspects and the associated functional networks, along with other relevant information. I find that the brain networks that give individuals their ownership of body parts, that influence gender typical behavior, and that are involved in chronic distress are different in individuals with and without gender dysphoria, leading to a new theory—that gender dysphoria is a sensory perception condition, an alteration in the sense of gender influenced by the reflexive behavioral responses associated with each of these networks. This theory builds upon previous work that supports the relevance of the body-ownership network and that questions the relevance of cerebral sexual dimorphism in regard to gender dysphoria. However, my theory uses a hierarchical executive function model to incorporate multiple reflexive factors (body ownership, gender typical/atypical behavior, and chronic distress) with the cognitive, reflective process of gender identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberENEURO.0183-19.2019
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Body-ownership network
  • Distress
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Sensory perception
  • Social behavioral network
  • Transgender

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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