Is Sexual Orientation Hardwired In Our Brain?

Louann Brizendine On How Sexual Preference Is Determined

Rich Simon

When it comes to sexual orientation, many people are still asking the question of whether homosexuality is a choice that is made at some point in life, or if there is something hardwired in the brain that definitively determines a person’s sexual preference.

Rich Simon poses this question to Louann Brizendine—a neurobiologist who specializes in studying the differences between the male and female brain—during her session in our webcast series, Why Neuroscience Matters.

Louann says that while there are still studies being conducted, it is believed that everyone is born with either a gay or straight brain. She goes on to explain how the developmental stages that occur during puberty will naturally bring out a person’s innate sexual orientation. Watch the video below to hear her full response.

Louann Brizendine is noted for her provocative work on gender and brain development. She's the author of bestsellers The Female Brain and The Male Brain. This clip is taken from his session in our brain science video course:

Brain Science Matters
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Topic: Trauma

Tags: brain science | add | brain power | developmental stages | female brain | interpersonal neurobiology | male brain | negativity bias | neurobiological | neurobiology | neuroplasticity | neuroscience | plasticity | polyvagal theory | positive psychology | psychology | psychotherapy | science | sexual orientation | traumatized

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Friday, July 25, 2014 4:57:48 AM | posted by Thomas Welter
Correction: Until they show me a Pet scan that shows a male homosexual with a pink brain, and a male straight baby with a blue brain, or in a female vice-versa.

Friday, July 25, 2014 4:53:51 AM | posted by Thomas Welter
I was listening to Louann's comments first stating that it is still not definitely known that there is a straight and homosexual brain. Then going on to say that it is believed that babies are born with a straight or homosexual brain. That is equivalent to a scientist writing out a formula, and then halfway through the formula writes "and then a miracle occurs" and finishes the formula to turn out like the scientist wants. In addition, regarding the pheromones, the gays and straights would have been sexually orientated by the time they entered this experiment. Many times in my practice, when treating gays, I found during the initial interview that they had been sexually abused by a same-sex relative at an early age. Or, that males had been dressed and treated as a female by the mother, or, in the instance of a female child, treated as a male by the father. Any of these situations could result in sexual orientation confusion. Until they show me a Pet scan that shows a homosexual with a pink brain, and a straight baby with a blue brain, I will just have to say that what this so-called scientist is spouting is junk science. I would suggest that she puts her book in the fiction category and go back to her college or university and demand her tuition back!

Thursday, July 24, 2014 2:11:49 AM | posted by Bryce Thompson
Thanks for the warning! I'll take a pass on your "book!" Good luck with the sales/returns.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 2:02:54 AM | posted by Bryce Thompson
The LAW in California and in New Jersey is to protect LGBT minors from "psychotherapists?" like you!

Saturday, June 14, 2014 3:49:45 PM | posted by Paul w. horn, PhD
My comment was incorrectly posted. Should read: neuro-endocrine distribution

Saturday, June 14, 2014 3:44:55 PM | posted by Paul w. horn, PhD
Genetic predisposition seems to be forgotten (likely for unscientific but for political reasons). The
All or none straight or gay "opinion" surely is promoted by those un acquainted with the variations
In neuron doctrine distribution.

Thursday, May 8, 2014 4:29:33 PM | posted by Theodore A. Hoppe
In a word, "epigenetics"
There is an old saying that if you only have a hammer every problem looks like a nail. These is what happens with therapy.
Obviously, twin studies have revealed that issues like sexual orientation and schizophrenia can effect one twin and not the other. So these issues have nothing, except perhaps a genetic pre-disposition, to do with brain developing as Brizendine you have us believe.

See Tim Specter's book, "Identically Different."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 9:26:54 AM | posted by Alida Vismara
scientific sexual fluidity
1. The Impact of Cues of Stigma and Support on Self-Perceived Sexual Orientation among Heterosexually Identified Men and Womenmore
2. Perceived Consequences of Hypothetical Identity-Inconsistent Sexual Experiences: Effects of Perceiver's Sex and Sexual Identitymore
3. APA Citation:
Macalister, H. E. and Moran, R. A. , 2011-03-03 "Generational Differences in Women’s Sexual Fluidity" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the AWP Annual Conference, Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penns Landing, Philadelphia, PA Online . 2013-07-22 from
4. Are men 'sexually fluid'?
5. What Neuroplasticity Teaches Us About Sexual Attraction and Love

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 9:25:58 AM | posted by Alida Vismara

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 9:25:10 AM | posted by Alida Vismara
If you can serve .. this is science: People believe sexuality is a biological event, which concerns genitalia and is regulated by the istinct: genitalia produce pleasure and pleasure cause emotions. This is a wrong idea, produced by our conscious-ness. Instinct does not exist in humans. Sex is learned from the first relationalship. Sexuality is due to a complex neural structuring in our Emotional Brain, which is progressively constructed along the individual life, from the infant attachment, through several interpersonal experiences, till adulthood. Emotional Brain works in a quite unconscious way: the subjectivity of an individual depends from it, but a person may feel only few misleadind feeling from his/her emotional brain working. Some of these feeling may be felt as sexual when he/her come to have any behaviors that may be called sexual. Pleasure is not produced by genitalia through specific neural pathways, but by a “lecture”, by our unconscious emotional brain. It occurs when some environmental, interpersonal and intrapsychic situations are organized in that neuropsychic structure built in our emotional brain, that constitute our individual sexual dimension. When his unconscious work occurs, our emotional brain gives orders to our body and genitalia.
This “lecture” is transformed and this transformation is transmitted to consciousness as a particular sensorial pleasure. Physical functioning of organs is not the cause, but the effect of an emotion. Its arousal is quite individual. Nobody has same brain as another person, nobody has a sexuality as another person. A concept like “normal sexuality” does not make sense. Therefore, sexuality represents an unconscious aspect of personality – that regards mind and life experiences – that is presented as a bodily automatic functioning. The misleading ideas that people have about sexuality are due to the unconscious functioning of sexuality, which can be otherwise perceived by our consciousness.
In the book the Authors describe neuroscience, psychoanalysis and experimental psychological researches, which occurred in the last decades, in order to underline how current opinion and literature about sex may be far from a scientific view of sexuality.
Psychoanalisis, in its most recent development concerning Relationship and Attachment Theory, is used to explain, both the variety of sexual behaviors, and cultural historical, mythological, anthropological literature, which was produced worldwide in the past and in the present time.
Neurosciences and experimental and clinical psychology sciences demonstrated that human sexuality does not function by physiological automatisms like stomach or liver. It is instead the somatic expression of an emotion, which happeans in the brain and which is primarily unconscious. Human sexuality origins in the emotional brain when it reads some external or internal circumstances as erotic according with its individual memories (“implicit memory”). Each brain developed its functional maturation by its learning from individual experiences, chiefly that neonatal and infant ones: so nobody has a brain equal to another, nobody has the same mind and each person has its own sexuality.
Notwithstanding scientific progress popular culture is still quite different, nor medical culture is updated. Our book may be useful to sexuologists, psychologists, physicians, educational and social workers, and students, or other scholars who are interested in the topic. Many psychological, anthropological, social and educational considerations can arise if we compare what we now scientifically known about human sexuality and what popular (and sometimes medical) culture thinks and conwequently people behave.

Monday, November 11, 2013 7:25:24 PM | posted by J. Fischer
I am sorry, but the issue is much more complex than male straight vs male homosexual because there are a good percentage of male homosexuals who also have a feminine orientation and or identify with females. So it isn't just either male straight or male homosexual hard wiring issue at puberty. There are more components invovled if we utilize your analysis, ie: 1) male straight, 2) male homosexual, 3) male homosexual with feminine orientation, 4) male homosexual with female identification. Also, if you say these are choices (like ordering a steak vs chicken at a restaurant), which I don't believe, then why wouldn't a psychologist be permitted to discuss those choices with this indidivual in therapy, just as he would discuss choices that a depressive or anxious person, or ADHD person or other would need to discuss in a thereapeutic relationship? Why is that treated with such disdain today and new laws and rules are being set up not to allow these discussions, but other disorders are not apart of such distorted rules of the game.

And why do you assume that homosexuality is a choice someone makes at puberty. All reality and science shows that you don't have that choice, it is made for you in the hardwiring of the brain. The real question is normality. Is Gay the new "Normal" to individuals in our industry? I am curious why Homosexuality with and without feminine orientation, which does not promote procreation of life in any way, is now considered "normal", but ADHD is still a disorder? Obviously ADHD is a problem with the hardwiring in the brain just like homosexuality is, but our industry considers ADHD still a disorder, but an even more detremental disorder in the hardwiring of the brain toward an attraction to the same sex is now not considered an abnormality? Talk about disorder bias. This makes no sense even on a very banal level. We are not discussing or assessing a "good" or "bad" or a "fault" behavioral message to the disorder, but it isn't any less a disorder then any of the other "hardwire" brain problems and disorders listed in DSM-IV or V. So are we allowing and supporting the creation of a "newter" gender that is socially acceptable but scientifically abnormal, or are we inhibiting and down-right stopping our ability to help those with problems in the hardwiring of their brains?