Testosterone is vital for response to threat in healthy men

Harold Mandel's picture
Human brain

Testosterone is important for a healthy threat response in healthy men. This awareness is important in helping us to better understand the 'fight or flight' response in men which may be associated with aggression and anxiety.

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Testosterone increases neural reactivity to threat in men.

Testosterone has been found to rapidly increases neural reactivity to threat in healthy men reported Biological Psychiatry. In previous research it has been suggested that testosterone plays a primary role in helping to shape competitive and aggressive behavior in people.

Testosterone may modulate threat associated neural circuitry

It has been postulated testosterone may work by modulating threat associated neural circuitry. However, the extent to testosterone in normal physiologic concentrations affects threat associated brain function in men has remained essentially unknown. Researchers have now found novel causal evidence that testosterone quickly potentiates the response of neural circuits which mediate threat processing and aggressive behavior in men.

Testosterone increases the brains’ response to threat

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It therefore appears that the presence of testosterone in men who are healthy increases their brains’ response to threat reports Elsevier.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone which is known to contribute to aggressive behavior in males. The neural circuits via which testosterone exerts these effects have been unclear.

Dr. Justin Carré led researchers in the study of the effects of testosterone on the brain's response to threat cues which are seen in healthy men. The researchers focused their attention on brain structures which mediate threat processing and aggressive behavior.

There were 16 healthy young male volunteers recruited for this study by the researchers. The volunteers completed two test days on which they received either testosterone or a placebo. During both testing days the men initially were given a drug which suppressed their testosterone to ensure that testosterone levels were similar among all of the study participants. The subjects were than asked to complete a face-matching task while they underwent a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan.

Increasing levels of testosterone can have a very significant effect on brain circuits

Carré, who is an assistant professor at Nipissing University, said that the researchers could now demonstrate for the first time that increasing levels of testosterone within the normal physiological range can have a very significant effect on brain circuits which are associated with threat processing and human aggression.

This understanding of testosterone effects on brain activity patterns which are associated with threat and aggression may help us to better understand the 'fight or flight' response in males which may be relevant to aggression and anxiety. This has the potential to help us better deal with these states of being.

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