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Estrogen Therapy Boosts Transgender Women's Brains

Taking estrogen after gender-affirming surgery improves brain connections key to memory, learning, and emotion in transgender women, a new study finds.
Not only does this suggest that trans women should keep up hormone therapy post-op, but it also underscores the deep connection between hormones and brain connectivity.
After having bottom surgery, removing the testicles, trans women experience the same symptoms that post-menopausal women do, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
The discovery, made by scientists at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and at the Hospital de ClĂ­nicas de Porto Alegre in Brazil, suggests that estrogen therapy may benefit the brains of trans women and post-menopausal women alike.
As research advances, we are discovering more and more how central hormones are to many physical processes - and how interconnected these systems are.
The hormone or endocrine system plays a key role in instigating everything from how we process food to how stress affects the body and even our heartbeats.
And the new research sheds light on how sex hormones affect the brain, too.
For trans women, gender-affirming surgery can do wonders to dispel lifelong dysphoria, in turn improving mental health and overall quality of life.
As the trans community and trans issues are finally becoming more socially accepted, doctors have seen a swell in the number of people seeking and having gender-affirming operations.
In the case of trans women, a complete transition means removing the testicles and penis - and with them the production center for male hormones.

Orchiectomy for Transgender Women: What to Expect  Warning, this link contains explicit diagrams.

Prior to surgery, many trans women take estrogen - in addition to testosterone blockers and progesterone, in many cases - to encourage their transition.
These hormones have a four-part effect on trans women's bodies and minds.
An infusion of estrogen, coupled with falling testosterone levels, can alter the way a trans woman senses and feels things, redistribute fat, trigger breast growth, change the skin, may trigger the emotional roller coaster of simulated puberty, change hair growth, sex organs and sexuality and more.
There are two categories of fairly clear but poorly understood effects of hormone therapy's effects on the brain: the quick change in how women perceive sensory information and in the emotional changes that some trans women experience.
But the new study reveals one of the mechanisms that may be at play - namely, communication between brain regions through the thalamus.
The researchers recruited 18 transgender women who had undergone complete transition surgeries, including the removal of testicles, stopping their male hormone production.
They all went off the estrogen therapies they'd taken before surgery for a month, were given MRIs to asses their brain activity, then resumed estrogen.
After another two months (60 days), they underwent another MRI.
The researchers saw that, while the women were on estrogen, a region of the brain called the thalamus was much more active...................more
This finding is a great advance for the neuroendocrinology sciences,' said lead researcher Dr. Maiko Abel Schneider of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

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