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Study finds brain difference in gay rams


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Study finds brain difference in gay rams

Christopher Curtis, PlanetOut NetworkMon Aug 15, 8:12 PM ET

SUMMARY: Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered biological differences between the brains of homosexual rams and heterosexual ones.

Researchers at Oregon State University have announced another finding linking sexual orientation to biology, as opposed to learned behavior.

The scientists recently discovered biological differences between the brains of homosexual rams and heterosexual ones, and the news will likely contribute to the "nature vs. nurture" debate over homosexuality's origin in humans.

The project began in 1995, when researchers at the federal Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, noticed that some rams would not mate with ewes, preferring rams instead.

Wanting to ensure breeders could purchase heterosexual rams, researchers began a study in the hopes of determining the animal's sexual orientation. They received grants from the National Institutes of Health: one for about $800,000 in 2001; a second for $2 million in 2004, according to the Associated Press.

Fred Stormshak, distinguished professor of animal science at Oregon State, and one of the researchers in the project, told the PlanetOut Network on Monday that his team found striking differences in the brains and hormones of certain rams.

"The anterior preoptic area of the hypothalamus was about half the size of this part of the brain in heterosexual rams," he explained.

Stormshak also noted that aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen, was much lower in the homosexual rams.

"What we're showing is what Simon Levay showed in human beings," Stormshak said, referring to the researcher who found a certain part of the homosexual hypothalamus was smaller than its heterosexual counterpart.

"The ultimate hypothesis we're testing is that something happens in utero. By birth a person's orientation is already set. There's nothing you can do about it," Stormshak said. "That's what our evidence would suggest, but whether that's the case with humans, I'm not sure. The human is a much more complex organism than a ram."

"We're telling you there is a similarity, but we're not saying that is the sole difference between heterosexual and homosexual behavior," Stormshak added.

Stormshak and his study partner, Charles Roselli, who are both straight, say they have received plenty of support from the LGBT community.

"My personal outlook to the gay community has been, 'Live and let live,'" Stormshak said. "I have no feeling on whether gay marriage is good or bad. I am completely neutral. I know there are very right-wing individuals who are not going to be willing to believe this study, though. That's OK -- everybody is entitled to an opinion." If you'd like to know more, you can find stories related to Study finds brain difference in gay rams.

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