Powerful 'puberty blocker' drugs given to hundreds of young people who are confused about their gender significantly risks lowering their IQs, a leading scientific expert has warned.

In an alarming study, Sallie Baxendale, professor of clinical neuropsychology at University College London, called for 'urgent' research into the impact of the drugs on children's brain functions.

NHS England stopped routinely prescribing the drugs, which halt bodily changes in puberty, last year after a damning review found that the treatment could interrupt the process of the brain maturing. But private gender clinics are still giving puberty suppressants to under 16s in the UK – and trans activists insist the drugs are safe.

A study, which looked at 25 girls being treated with the puberty blockers, found there was an average drop of seven points in their IQs. 

One patient experienced a 'significant loss' of 15 points or more, Prof Baxendale said. The girls all suffered from 'precocious puberty' leading to the early onset of adulthood.

'Young people and their families are unable to give truly informed consent for these treatments as their doctors cannot tell them what the long-term effects on their cognitive development will be,' said Prof Baxendale.

Stephanie Davies-Arai, of Transgender Trend, which has campaigned against the prescription of puberty blockers to young people, said: 'Proper long-term studies have never been done to prove they are safe. 

It is a myth blockers are 'reversible' when given at the time of natural puberty. They prevent a critical period of growth and cognitive development.'

Now Prof Baxendale has presented evidence about the 'detrimental impact' of the controversial drugs on young people's IQ levels.