Wired for heterosexuality or homosexuality?

Today’s Video: The difference between the gay and straight brain

Rich Simon

It’s a topic that has been at the center of countless debates, both rational and irrational. Is there a clear biological difference between the heterosexual and homosexual brain? According to Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain and The Male Brain, the answer is predictably complicated.

The science is still fuzzy, and the topic remains as controversial as ever, but according to Louann, our brains determine our sexual preferences from the moment they begin to develop. There’s no single part of the brain that spells out sexual orientation, she says, but by puberty, our brains are marinating in hormones that guide behavior, gradually revealing our true attractions and desires.

“Attraction unfolds at the normal developmental stage during puberty,” says Louann in this brief video clip. “It’s not some moral decision you make at a certain point. It unfolds naturally, and in the same kind of way between those interested in the opposite sex or same sex.”

What’s for certain, says Louann, is that we can tell when someone is sexually attracted by looking at the brain. In a recent Swedish study she cites, the brains of homosexual and heterosexual males were scanned after they smelled pheromones from other men and women. The pleasure centers of the brain lit up when gay men smelled male pheromones, and when straight men smelled female pheromones.

In our Webcast series Why Brain Science Matters, Louann describes the stages of sexualized behavior, including why and how it emerges the way it does, and provides an enlightening look at the role hormones play even in the infant brain.

Why Brain Science Matters:
Concrete Strategies for Your Practice

Click here for full course details

Tags: brain science | female brain | gay men | Louann Brizendine | male brain | science | sex | sexual orientation

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Friday, July 25, 2014 10:39:35 PM | posted by Simon Te
The science is fuzzy. It means that there really is no science to back it up So why are some posters making personal attacks on those who question this opinion? They will vehemently defend an opinion based on no science and blur the issue with sarcasm. Any person judgmentally marginalizing someone else's family members and attacking with sarcasm really doesn't make a good argument for themselves as capable of helping others.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 5:05:37 PM | posted by Michelle Topal, LCSW
And yet again, bisexuals (that is those who may self identify themselves this way because of various levels of attraction to both genders), are ignored. Why do we need to look at attraction, identity & orientation (which by the way, are NOT the same thing) in such a binary way? This doesn't take into account, as indicated by Mike above, the "fluidity" of sexual & emotional attraction, desire & identity, which doesn't just exist in women. Not to mention studies like this are so focused on gender (which also is not always binary or consistent with a person's biological sex), that they miss the many other ways in which attraction may become somewhat fixed (that is, you can't just change it because you want to) at any given point in many other ways....such as tall dark & handsome vs blonde & blue eyed...That is to say, our attractions are so much more complex, specific & fetishistic than just gender. For example, what about age...? I also agree with comments above, I'm tired of this question at all....who cares...?... Unless we are trying to change something (which is what it always seems like this type of "research" is aimed at)? This again speaks to stigmatizing same sex attraction. And besides, as with most other aspects of who we are, isn't it always a combination of nature/nurture.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 1:51:41 AM | posted by Bryce Thompson
Thank you Louann. As you can read from these posts, "psychotherapists" NEED this training!

Thursday, July 24, 2014 1:47:29 AM | posted by Bryce Thompson
Tragically, given your post, is why her training is necessary. I pray to God you are not licensed!

Thursday, July 24, 2014 1:41:18 AM | posted by Bryce Thompson
"This is an irresponsible capitulation to the assumption that there is a “straight” way and a “wrong” way to desire." Did you read the article?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 11:20:51 PM | posted by mike schuman
The past president of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association was a lesbian for 35 years until she met the man of her dreams. Now she is a happily married heterosexual with grand children. My sister was a lesbian for 40 years and past president of the gay parade in SF, CA. Now she is a happily married hetersexual stepmother. The vast majority of brain research attests to the brain's plasticity, flexibity and adaptability.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 9:23:46 PM | posted by Theodore A. Hoppe
How would Brizendine account for identical twin studies where one is gay and the other is not?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 6:08:26 PM | posted by Michel Leger
This is an irresponsible capitulation to the assumption that there is a "straight" way and a "wrong" way to desire. The ONLY reason to engage this discussion AT ALL is IF one is attempting to account for a difference that is always already assumed to be "bent" or "twisted" as opposed to "straight." IF the assumption were that gay desire and gay identity are simply neutral variations on a theme, no one would engage the "why?" of it; or if they did at all, no one would care ("We found the gene that causes curly hair" reply: "snore."). I'm appalled at you, AND at this "researcher." Both you, and presumably she, assert that the "science" is "still fuzzy." So why are you hyping this, you homophobes?