From an evolutionary point of view, homosexuality is rather difficult to explain. Any genetic trait that reduces the chances of producing the offspring usually gets eliminated very quickly in populations. Nonetheless, homosexuality appears to persist in humans throughout the history of our species.
Sizing brains up Comparing men and women wasn't always so tough. Late last century, renowned French scientist and presumably committed bachelor Gustav Le Bon got the brain ball rolling with his observations that Parisian women's brains were closer in size to gorillas' than to men's, and female inferiority is "so obvious that no one can contest it for a moment" What he may have lacked in the objective enquiry department, Le Bon more than made up for in finger-on-the-pulse-ness.
Brain scans have provided the most compelling evidence yet that being gay or straight is a biologically fixed trait. The scans reveal that in gay people, key structures of the brain governing emotion, mood, anxiety and aggressiveness resemble those in straight people of the opposite sex. The differences are likely to have been forged in the womb or in early infancy, says Ivanka Savic, who conducted the study at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
Striking similarities between the brains of gay men and straight women have been discovered by neuroscientists, offering fresh evidence that sexual orientation is hardwired into our neural circuitry. Scans reveal homosexual men and heterosexual women have symmetrical brains, with the right and left hemispheres almost exactly the same size. Conversely, lesbians and straight men have asymmetrical brains, with the right hemisphere significantly larger than the left. Scientists at the prestigious Stockholm Brain Institute in Sweden also found certain brain circuits linked to emotional responses were the same in gay men and straight women.
Public opinion about gay rights has shifted enormously in the United States over the past few decades. What are some of the factors that have led to this historic change in attitudes? We have a deeper look this morning at one of the most profound shifts in public attitudes ever recorded - it's the public view of people who are gay and lesbian.
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Researchers using brain scans have found new evidence that biology—and not environment—is at the core of sexual orientation. Scientists at the Stockholm Brain Institute in Sweden report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA that gay men and straight women share similar traits—most notably in the size of their brains and the activity of the amygdala—an area of the brain tied to emotion, anxiety and aggression. The same is true for heterosexual men and lesbians.
Gay men and straight women share some characteristics in the area of the brain responsible for emotion, mood and anxiety, researchers said yesterday in a study highlighting the potential biological underpinning of sexuality. Brain scans also showed the same symmetry among lesbians and straight men, the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A number of studies have looked at the roles genetic, biological and environmental factors play in sexual orientation but little evidence exists that any plays an all-important role. Many scientists believe both nature and nurture play a part.
Epigenetics, or epi-marks, are chemical compounds that bind to DNA and affect the way genes function by switching certain ones on or off. Epigenetics can also influence traits in individuals as a whole. A relatively new field in biology, epigenetics may hold the key in unlocking the mystery behind how sexual orientation is determined in the womb.
The relationship between biology and sexual orientation is a subject of research. While scientists do not know what determines an individual's sexual orientationthey theorize that it is caused by a complex interplay of genetichormonaland environmental influences. Biological theories for explaining the causes of sexual orientation are favored by scientists. A number of twin studies have attempted to compare the relative importance of genetics and environment in the determination of sexual orientation.