The Link between Estradiol and Neuroplasticity in Transgender Women after Gender-Affirming Surgery: A Bimodal Hypothesis
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For transgender individuals, gender-affirming surgery (GAS) and cross-sex hormone therapy (CSHT) are part of the gender transition process. Scientific evidence supporting the maintenance of CSHT after GAS-related gonadectomy is accumulating. However, few data are available on the impact of CSHT on the brain structure following hypogonadism. Thus, we aimed to investigate links between estradiol and brain cortical thickness (CTh) and cognition in 18 post-gonadectomy transgender women using a longitudinal design. For this purpose, the participants underwent a voluntary period of CSHT washout of at least 30 days, followed by estradiol re-institution for 60 days. High-resolution T1-weighted brain images, hormonal measures, working and verbal memory were collected at 2 time points: on the last day of the washout (t1) and on the last day of the 2-month CSHT period (t2). Between these 2 time points, CTh increased within the left precentral gyrus and right precuneus but decreased within the right lateral occipital cortex. However, these findings did not survive corrections of multiple comparisons. Nevertheless, there was a significant negative correlation between changes in estradiol levels and changes in CTh. This effect was evident in the left superior frontal gyrus, the left middle temporal gyrus, the right precuneus, the right superior temporal gyrus, and the right pars opercularis. Although there was an improvement in verbal memory following hypogonadism correction, we did not observe a significant relationship between changes in memory scores and CTh. Altogether, these findings suggest that there is a link between estradiol and CTh.
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