A landmark study is offering new insight into the brain structures of trans people.

The research, presented at the 2018 European Society of Endocrinology meeting in Barcelona, analyzed the brain activity of 160 participants who experienced gender dysphoria. Among participants who were assigned male at birth, MRI scans and brain matter analysis revealed brain activity that mimicked traditionally feminine patterns, and vice versa for participants assigned female at birth.

The analysis also revealed that these fundamental differences are detectable as early as childhood. (Currently, most children who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria undergo psychotherapy and/or receive hormone blockers to stall puberty.)

Professor Julie Bakker, who led the research team at the University of Liege in Belgium, says more study is needed before the team comes to any concrete conclusions.

But the new findings are a step in the right direction, Bakker told The Telegraph: “We now have evidence that sexual differentiation of the brain differs in young people with [gender dysphoria], as they show functional brain characteristics that are typical of their desired gender.”

This isn’t the first body of research to suggest a biological component to gender identity: In March, two reports—one in Brazil, and one in the U.S.—worked to establish a link between genetics and gender identity.

Samantha Manzella is a writer and copy editor based out of the Hudson Valley. You can find her writing in a coffeehouse or searching Insta for the latest tattoo artist to hit the scene.

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