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Study: Testosterone Boosts Men’s Reponse to Threats
- Updated: August 12, 2014
A recent study has found that the level of the “male hormone” testosterone can have profound impacts on how the brain responds to perceived threats. The actual workings behind this are still a mystery, it is just known that it happens. Researchers studied 16 volunteers, all of them young men, and they all received either a placebo or testosterone.
The researchers focused on the brain structures that control threat responses, by detecting the threat, and then mediating that threat and initiating aggressive behavior to deal with the threat. This process is handled by the amygdala, hypothalamus, and the periaqueductal gray. The analysis showed that by increasing testosterone that increased the reactions from these areas when viewing angry facial expression, a potential threat.
Justin Carre, an assistant professor at Nipissing University in Canada, said in a press statement, “We were able to show for the first time that increasing levels of testosterone within the normal physiological range can have a profound effect on brain circuits that are involved in threat-processing and human aggression.”
By having a better understanding of how testosterone affects the brain’s response to threat and aggression might help scientists understand the “fight of flight” reactions in men as related to aggression and anxiety. It is also important to understand how testosterone affects the male brain since supplementing testosterone has become increasingly popular and is marketing to older men as a solution to reduced virility.
Carre said that further work was still needed and is continuing. He also added, “Our current work is examining the extent to which a single administration of testosterone influences aggressive and competitive behavior in men.”
Prior studies have found that giving a single dose of testosterone did have an effect on brain circuit function. However, most of these studies were exclusively on women. The study appeared in the journal Biological Psychiatry.