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17 Jun 2008

More evidence that being gay is hardwired at birth: study

Offering fresh evidence that sexual orientation is hardwired into our neural circuitry, Swedish researchers say they have found striking similarities between the brains of gay men and straight women and vice versa.

After studying scans from 90 volunteers, the researchers found that straight women and gay men had no difference between the size of the different halves of their brain while lesbian women and straight men shared a particular "asymmetry" in their hemisphere size. In heterosexual men, the scans showed the right side of the brain to be typically 2% larger than the left compared to 1% in lesbians.

This is the first time scientists have used brain scanners to try to look for the source of those differences although earlier research had identified differences in spatial and verbal abilities related to sex and sexual orientation. Gay men and straight women have been found to fare better at certain language tasks, while heterosexual men and lesbians tend to have better spatial awareness.

The Swedish researcher, Ivanka Savic from the Stockholm Brain Institute, says she and her colleagues chose to measure areas of the brain likely to have been fixed at birth.

"This is the most robust measure so far of cerebral differences between homosexual and heterosexual subjects That was the whole point of the study, to show the parameters that differ, but which couldn't be altered by learning or cognitive processes," Savic was quoted by abc7news.com as saying.

The study noted similar characteristics in the area of the brain responsible for emotion response. In heterosexual men and lesbian women, there were more nerve "connections" in the right side of the amygdala, compared with the left. The reverse, with more neural connections in the left amygdala, was the case in homosexual men and straight women. However neuroscientists are unsure whether the similarities are genetic or develop in the womb.

Savic's team has yet to confirm whether the differences in brain shape are responsible for sexual orientation, or are a consequence of it. To find out, they have begun another study to investigate brain symmetry in newborn babies, to see if it can be used to predict their future sexual orientation.

Above: Images showing the amygdala in heterosexual men and women (labeled HeM and HeW) and homosexual and women (labeled HoM and HoW). Image: National Academy of Sciences, PNAS.


1. 2008-06-17 19:23  
2. 2008-06-17 20:58  
Its expected, sexual behaviour is not a socially learned skill, its a basic instinct related to the brainarea responsible for reproduction.
4. 2008-06-17 21:09  
as more and more "born gay" evidence mounts over the years maybe this will put an end to the gaybashing within our community let alone outside it...
5. 2008-06-17 21:28  
I seriously doubt if mounting scientific evidence for genetic link to homosexuality will end discrimination, marginalizing, or even violence against gay people. The dark side of human nature, as history attests, will always compel the majority to subordinate the minority who are perceived to be 'different'. The holocaust is probably one of the most concerted and extreme effort in recent history - who knows, such scientific evidence may even be used AGAINST gay people one day - it certainly could make homosexuality easier to pin-point at an earlier age. If you expect human nature fair and just, you're living in Lalaland
6. 2008-06-17 21:52  
OMG!! sound so scary.... :)
7. 2008-06-17 22:41  
truly amazing and scary,
and exciting discoveries all at the same time!
I just hope we dont lose our individualities,
lest be sooner or later morphed into color-coded bar-code identities.
Think of the cult-films Soylent Green,and Boys from Brazil.
AND Gattaca, thats real scary.
8. 2008-06-17 22:41  
yes, there are narrow-minded people out there who won't give a rat's ass if this is proven to be true, (cliche alert!...) but even if this makes one person out there have a better understanding of and is more accepting to homosexuality, and they decide not to beat the crap out of some poof... then good has been achieved.
9. 2008-06-17 23:09  
Individual factor such as biological aspects alone is inadequate to account for a full explanation. It is both the interaction of environmental & biological factors which comes to play. Even though it's in close similarities, such small sample size and geographical-specific samples cannot generalize the findings.

Moreover, are most of the female participants more to the masculinity side or feminine side? And vice versa for the male participants? These play an important role and may affect the findings as well.
Nevertheless, it is a great step and a stepping stone to further discover new findings about us. =D
10. 2008-06-17 23:26  
too funny! gay men are like straight women! hahaha...
11. 2008-06-17 23:57  
aiyahhh... even if they prove that being gay is something inborn, the discrimination or rather distaste of feminine gays among their masculine counterparts still remains... how do you expect straight people to change when gays themselves cannot change their perspective of being different?
13. 2008-06-18 00:35  
No matter how straight of a woman we are, the straight men would always look at us in a very different way. Somethings never change
15. 2008-06-18 00:36  
While the holocaust revealed the dark side of the human mind, it's end also showed that many more human beings fight darkness.

While a few minds may never change their belief of gay people, many more are open to changing their minds in the face of reasonable facts, and this new evidence is certainly one in our favor.

Congratulations to our Californian brothers and sisters on the day of their marriages!
16. 2008-06-18 00:36  
Not exactly a huge surprise, as anyone who's played with the male/female brain tests in the London science museum will attest.

But it's more inconvenient scientific evidence for those that want to interpret the Bible in an intolerant way, to suit their own prejudices.

I hope it doesn't lead to certain cultures that already kill girl babies, also killing newborn gay babies.
17. 2008-06-18 00:55  
i definitely believe thats gayhood (homosexuality, in popular term) is completely natural thing and been set or designed since period of development in womb
but i dont see any connection and correlation between sexual orientation with brain size or structures of the brain itself, including activities of the brain's which associated with the behaviour as mentioned above ( directly or indirectly)
larger part of the brain doesnt have any correlation with the higher activities of that part itself
so i suppose to wait for more researches about that issue and not just based on this superficial incompleted research that actually can make people confused
18. 2008-06-18 03:25  
As a scientist (well at least a mathematician) I completely agree with heimuk: beware of so-called scientific studies with a very small sample (90 volunteers) and dubiously significant differences (1 or 2% size). It is possible that homosexuality has some genetic origins, but these kinds of reports are simply not serious.

On another side, as MMX44264 recalled, the Nazis had great fun with eugenism (mind you, they even deported pink triangles...)
19. 2008-06-18 05:48  
i agree with drelin - a population size of 90 is just a joke.

nevertheless interpreting those photos it appears that on average we use more brain than anyone else - proof that we are genetically superior ... where are the our armies ... time to take over the world
20. 2008-06-18 08:10  
"Research" like this pops up every few years. Reasons for being gay are as varied as gay people themselves. No need to look for biological justification - we are what we are. I know why I'm gay - and it's not because of my brain. (No, I don't care to elaborate.)
21. 2008-06-18 08:13  
Brain size and shape is formed more in early childhood than in the womb, and is determined by extraneous factors more than genetics or prenatal development such as parental interaction and bonding between the ages of 0-4. Whether correct or not, this research hasn't added much to the nature/nurture debate, which still needs to continue.
22. 2008-06-18 08:14  
Brain size and shape is formed more in early childhood than in the womb, and is determined by extraneous factors more than genetics or prenatal development such as parental interaction and bonding between the ages of 0-4. Whether correct or not, this research hasn't added much to the nature/nurture debate, which still needs to continue.
23. 2008-06-18 09:57  
Thank you "science" for libelling us.
So, when will we be "treated" and/or "cured" of our abnormalities / deficiencies with he help of the well organised and so rich mafia medical industry unless we are put in rehabilitation camps!

You bet some governments are going to use these precious results for homophobic purposes!
24. 2008-06-18 10:39  
While Drelin is right to urge caution and note the poor and possibly self selected sample size, the study is science and just how the scientific process works. By reading the actual study (linked above) we see that the researchers have conducted this study following results of other published studies showing a possible link. They have then conducted a more pointed study to try to further ferret out this possible link. If after review it is deemed plausible and worthy further and larger studies will certainly be conducted.

The article on the other hand uses typical journalistic hyperbole to skew the very general language of the actual study into more news worthy sounds. That is all too common as well.

Disundi, I don't see how you can claim that science has libeled anyone in this case. It has merely shown correlation between one thing and another. It has not claimed an abnormality only noted an apparent difference. And knowledge can hardly be libelous.
25. 2008-06-18 10:52  
This kind of research is correlational rather than casual. Most psychological research are like this. Nature and nurture debate is a debate of two social constructs in binary oppositions. It is endless and meaningless. If we are inherited or inborn to be gay, is it an abnormality like retardation? If we are learnt to be gay, is it an ill behavior we acquired? No matter how we are gay, anti-gay people have so many excuses to verify. Thus this kind of research is wasting money and does no benefit to us.
26. 2008-06-18 12:16  
ooooh. interesting. what about lesbian men?
27. 2008-06-18 12:38  
I believe researches such as these are critical for the gay community. Whether this particular research adds any new insight or not is an altogether different matter. Because there hasn't been enough research on the subject people are free to assume whatever they want to about homoesxuality; immoral, abnormal, disease etc. In the absense of information young people are coerced into painful electrotherapy, religious counceling and what have you. Not to mention hate crimes, discrimination and as we've seen in places like Iran, public executions.

Will scientific evidence supporting nature for example solve this problem? Not immediately (I'm not naive). But the evidence will allow our community to push for equality in the developed world. And I think we will be able to get through the society armed with knowledge. And that trend will eventually trickle down to other part so the world.

As for evidence to the contrary (of nature). Well at least we'll know the battle lines are drawn.
28. 2008-06-18 12:54  
Jackfruit has it spot-on...human beings are almost always motivated by emotion rather than reason- ask any psychologist, or even yr "friendly"
salesmen :p
And to me, this study has an interesting parallel to the one conducted on left-handed people previously (In 2007, researchers discovered LRRTM1, the first gene linked to increased odds of being left-handed). Such studies are by itself actually harmless; it is only when harnessed with people who have issues with the targeted group o that it starts to get really ugly.
29. 2008-06-18 19:27  
is that why I could never catch or kick a ball? :p
30. 2008-06-18 21:15  
Don't worry, philosopjia: You are not the only one! Haha...
31. 2008-06-18 23:18  
To find out, they have begun another study to investigate brain symmetry in newborn babies, to see if it can be used to predict their future sexual orientation.
32. 2008-06-18 23:18  
"To find out, they have begun another study to investigate brain symmetry in newborn babies, to see if it can be used to predict their future sexual orientation."

Don't go there. Please just don't.
33. 2008-06-19 01:01  
I think 90 volunteers isn't enough to prove this research.
34. 2008-06-19 01:48  
Millions of kids starving and homeless in the world. 50% of the population ignorant and so called experts are getting paid $$$$$$$$ to research this garbage. Really, I mean really...... how important is this shit.... Will the human race ever get its act together and confront the real problems that face us, or will we just keep pissing money away on mindless, expert opinions on stuff that less than 10% of the population cares about.
36. 2008-06-19 05:25  
Brain symmetry? Why not? In math we have mirror symmetry, supersymmetry, so here you go...

Looking at the study, they picked up 25 straights and 20 gays of each sex, which makes up 90:

- Can anyone guess why the DISsymmetry?

- Some people identify as gay, others as straights, and the Kinsey studies taught us that most people are in the middle. How did they pick their sample up?

- They claim that brains of homosexual ppl look like those of heterosexual ppl of the opposite sex. I learned that there is a (not minor) difference between sexual orientation and gender orientation. Did they take care
of this issue?

- The Scientific American article says: "The team next used PET (positron emission tomography) scans to measure the blood flow to the amygdala, that part of the brain controlling emotion, fear and aggression (...) They found that in gay men and women, the blood flowed to areas involved in fear and anxiety, whereas in straight men and lesbians it tended to flow to pockets linked to aggression." I think fear and anxiety may lead quite easily to aggression, so what is the point? Would there be any stereotyping here?
37. 2008-06-19 14:03  
How is research coming on cures for AIDS? Cancer? Diabetes? Alzheimers? Poverty? Hunger? Pollution? As good money and resources are squandered on petty, meaningless research, political and religious lobbying, millions of people are suffering and dying. As phamaceutical companies and college research labs earn huge profits by creating drugs which downgrade chronic, fatal diseases to "manageable" they can't stop there...they MUST find cures.
38. 2008-06-19 15:29  
What a waste of time.

You undermine yourself.

Who cares to fight an argument about whether we are born or become gay. We are gay. We can choose to be whatever.

I agree with other posters, the money is better spent on more important things than insecurities of how we got here.
39. 2008-06-19 15:32  
You think it matters that we prove this?

People will still hate gays. You wanna be loved and hugged by straight homophobes?

You think blacks want to prove that they are born black and not become black? People still hate different races just because they are different.
40. 2008-06-19 15:35  
Next thing you know, some idiot will want to prove whether you chose to be gay, were born gay, or became gay.

Or there will be classes of gays:

1. pure born
2. became gay
3. wanna be gay
4. semi gay

Please start a JOKE page and put 'news' like this there.

41. 2008-06-19 20:22  
I think it is very very very important also to find out the cause of heterosexual. Were they born hetero? or influent by environment? How they become hetero? Is it a trend?
42. 2008-06-19 22:55  
evening ... interesting findings ... thanks ... ... ... and also think we should appreciate positive or even neutral developments ... in all directions; religious, legal, scientific, political, social, economical and such ...
44. 2008-06-20 13:59  
it is human instinct to crave for knowledge and truth. why would human strive to put in huge sum of money for outer space research? why should human interested to know the earth is round and revolves round the sun?

saying that this research is useless is just like saying why should we bother to find out whether the earth is spherical or flat, so long as we live on earth and are safe and sound?

i think we can do some resource allocation, some money for research, and some money for good works. anyway, you will always have the poor with you, no matter how many good works you did. this is an unequal world. face it.
45. 2008-06-20 17:02  
To Post #33 drelin -

Interesting points you've raised, esp. with rgds to sexual & gender orientation. Indeed that is what most people are confused by.
But one very important point to note-
the people conducting this study are neither yr average Joe-in-the-street nor some quack pseudo-professionals- they are actual research scientists from the SBI . If it's credibility you are after, then yes- they have it. Just check out the Scientific Method & look at the tough myriad of processes involved in scientific research.

The only problem is when such studies are being over-simplified for the masses- turning them into
pseudo-science or pop psychology- or worse, marrying with the public's homophobic prejudices- that it cheapens & degrades the quality of such findings.
46. 2008-06-22 10:24  
In response to Post #9 Wuyo says (Posted : 17 June 2008 23:26) "too funny! gay men are like straight women! hahaha... "

This may be even more funny: straight men are like gay women. It appears you missed that.
47. 2008-06-23 08:48  
I am shocked by these people who take this great finding for granted. GLBT representatives are fighting to build ground for the human rights recognition of the GLBT community around the world; these researches are crucial to support the arguments the GLBT lawmakers are making so laws can be made to protect equal rights of GLBT community.

What's going on in our community? are we so focused on sex and porn all the time we can't see the difference between "being persecuted by old beliefs that says gay are worth living" and "trying to do noble things while still accepting the stigma that WE ARE NOT WORTH LIVING ourselves? in other words: we are being punish or we punish ourselves by thinking that we are worth to be punish?
These negative comments diminishing this the importance of this scientific finding are so pathetic.
48. 2008-06-23 08:56  
The future danger is when fetuses who are identified as "potentially being gay or lesbian" are terminated before even become a full being. When that happens, then there are more reasons to just kill the GLBT people, it's okay with the babies anyways, right?

There, is it enough awakening, now?
49. 2008-06-23 15:08  
I agree with Jbn888!

Hi, guys, lets put in extra efforts to increase our members in our community!
Being same sex addicted, is so wonderful, right?
50. 2008-06-24 13:27  
well it's a start, but nothing more. after all, 90 volunteers is hardly worth calling a representation of earth's 6 Billion people. hell, that's the number of people living in my apartment building alone! when are we going to see more exhaustive research with larger sample groups that more accurately represent and reflect the entire earth population?? until then, these minuscule studies are worthless to society at large.
51. 2008-06-24 13:39  
In response to Post #21 chefcrsh, I believe disundi meant to say "labeling us". At least that's how I interpreted it when I read his comment.
52. 2008-06-25 21:11  
i'm sorry if you think that you can get your answers about
homosexuality from a single research effort or an experiment. i understand your disappointment, but science doesn't work that way. it doesn't provide answers in the clear-cut way you would want it, it works in probabilities rather than absolutes, and every research
effort contributes to a better understanding, from which we can draw on to perform better experiments, ask new questions, validate or invalidate existing findings, which may eventually transform into better odds for said interpretation to be true.

so far, it seems that there is a partial biological basis for homosexuality. It is observed in 1500 species of animals, in those 500 is well documented http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6066606.stm

It is useful for countering claims that homosexuality is unnatural, especially if used with a knowledge of evolutionary biology and psychology, but we must be careful not to derive a 'should' from an 'is' (cf natural fallacy) and hold homosexuality hostage to nature.
xenophobia and violent behaviour is 'natural' but not necessarily how we should behave.

this is a recent paper that might help put this article in perspective ('Born gay? The psychobiology of human sexual orientation' ) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=MImg&_imagekey=B6V9F-4619GBX-1-1&_cdi=5897&_user=446477&_orig=search&_coverDate=06%2F30%2F2003&_sk=999659991&view=c&wchp=dGLbVlz-zSkWb&_valck=1&md5=df4669a61818057b247a1438fa84f5a9&ie=/sdarticle.pdf

Some papers you may find interesting:
Camperio-Ciani, A., Corna, F., & Capiluppi, C. (2004). Evidence for maternally inherited factors favouring male homosexuality and promoting female fecundity. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 271, 2217-2221.

Muscarella, F. (2002). Preferred partner characteristics in homosexual men in relation to speculated patterns of brain differentiation. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 23, 299-302.

Rahman, Q., & Wilson, G. D. (2003). Born gay? The psychobiology of human sexual orientation. Personality and Individual Differences, 34, 1337-1382.

Schmitt, D. P. (2006). Sexual Strategies Across Sexual Orientations: How Personality Traits and Culture Relate to Sociosexuality Among Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Heterosexuals. In M. R. Kauth (Ed.), Handbook of the Evolution of Human Sexuality (pp. 183-214). Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.
53. 2008-06-26 23:45  
i would like to see a brain scan report based on babies.
How babies brain changes when they are gay as they grow up.





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