The sexual differentiation of the human brain (funded by the Dutch Science Foundation, NWO VICI). The main aim is to analyze the role of gonadal hormones and sex chromosome genes in the sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation. We ask: why do certain people feel that they are born in the wrong body? What is the origin of transexualism (gender identity disorders) or sexual orientation? Are they programmed during early development? We use neuroimaging (fMRI) techniques as well as an unique collection of post-mortem brain material present at the NIN to study the role of gonadal hormones and sex chromosome genes in the sexual differentiation of the human brain. This project is predominantly conducted at the NIN and the VUmc, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Furthermore, we analyze how gonadal hormones such as testosterone and estradiol induce either a male or female-typical differentiation of the brain using various transgenic mouse models as experimental models. We focus in particularly on the GnRH system as well as on the kisspeptin system, a recently discovered peptide that seems to play a crucial role in neuroendocrine functioning, and that may also be very important for the expression of sexual behavior and sexual partner preference.
Collaborators: Prof. Dick Swaab, NIN and Prof. Peggy Cohen-Kettenis, Medical Center, Vrije Universiteit