Health & Science

Why some people are gay; Chimps console each other; Sleeping with the enemy; I kissed a robot; Why you have an appendix

Why some people are gay

Is homosexuality a “lifestyle choice” or an inborn characteristic? Recent scientific research has found strong indications that gay people are born that way, and a new Swedish study has provided the most definitive evidence yet. Detailed analysis of the brains of 50 straight people and 40 gays and lesbians has found that gay men have brains with architecture strikingly like that of straight women. Lesbians’ brains, on the other hand, are similar to those of straight men. In the study, which utilized both MRI and PET scans of the subjects’ brains, researchers found that straight women and gay men both have highly symmetrical brains, with equal-sized right and left hemispheres. In straight men, the right hemisphere is significantly larger than the left. The scans also found intriguing differences in the amygdala, the section of the brain that makes connections between stored information and emotional reactions. In straight women and gay men, the amygdala is rich in connections that allow for sophisticated interplay of thoughts and feelings. In straight men and some lesbians, the amygdala shows more “fight or flight” responses. “It’s a more action-related response than in women,” study author Ivanka Savic of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm tells New Scientist. Researchers believe the brain differences originate in the womb during pregnancy; it appears that exposure to male hormones “masculinizes” the brain, and that when the levels of these hormones are unusually low during the gestation of a boy and high during that of a girl, the child’s sexual orientation becomes gay.

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