Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is used to measure gray matter tissue density and white matter fiber organization/directionality. Recent studies show that DWI also allows for assessing neuroplastic adaptations in the human hypothalamus. To this end, we investigated a potential influence of testosterone replacement therapy on hypothalamic microstructure in female-to-male (FtM) transgender individuals. 25 FtMs were measured at baseline, 4 weeks, and 4 months past treatment start and compared to 25 female and male controls. Our results show androgenization-related reductions in mean diffusivity in the lateral hypothalamus. Significant reductions were observed unilaterally after 1 month and bilaterally after 4 months of testosterone treatment. Moreover, treatment induced increases in free androgen index and bioavailable testosterone were significantly associated with the magnitude of reductions in mean diffusivity. These findings imply microstructural plasticity and potentially related changes in neural activity by testosterone in the adult human hypothalamus and suggest that testosterone replacement therapy in FtMs changes hypothalamic microstructure towards male proportions.
- Diffusion-weighted imaging
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