Testosterone may also encourage friendly behavior in men

Testosterone may encourage friendly and professional behavior in males, according to a new animal study from Emory University, UK, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences.

“What we believe is the first time, we have shown that testosterone can directly promote non-sexual prosocial behavior, as well as aggression, in the same individual. This is surprising because we generally use testosterone to increase sexual behavior and aggression.” think about.” But we have shown that it can have more subtle effects depending on the social context,” says Aubrey Kelly, the study’s first author.

The work also revealed how testosterone affects the neuronal activity of oxytocin cells, the so-called “love hormone,” linked to social bonding.

Most human studies suggest that testosterone potentiates aggressive behavior. Researchers wondered whether testosterone, in addition to increasing aggression toward intruders, might also reduce prosocial behavior. However, he also speculates that it may do something more radical: increase positive social responses in contexts where it is appropriate to act socially.

To test this question, they conducted experiments with Mongolian gerbils, rodents that form long-lasting pair bonds and raise their young together. Although males can be aggressive during mating and defending their territory, they also exhibit hugging behavior after the female becomes pregnant, and protective behavior towards their offspring.

In one experiment, a male gerbil was introduced to a female gerbil. After forming a pair bond and the female becoming pregnant, the males displayed normal pampering behavior towards their mates.

The researchers then gave the men injections of testosterone. They hoped that the resulting sharp increase in testosterone levels would reduce their pampering behavior if testosterone normally acts as an antisocial molecule. “Instead, we were surprised that a male gerbil became even more cuddly and professional with his mate. He became a ‘super mate,'” Kelly says.

In a follow-up experiment conducted a week later, the researchers conducted a residence-penetration test. Females were removed from the cages so that each male gerbil that had previously received a testosterone injection was alone in its home cage. Then an unknown male was introduced into the cage.

“Typically, a male will chase or try to avoid another male entering his cage. In contrast, resident males who were previously injected with testosterone were more friendly to the intruder,” explains Kelly. .

However, the friendly behavior suddenly changed when the original male subjects received another injection of testosterone. They then began to display normal search and/or avoidance behavior with the intruder. “It was as if they suddenly woke up and realized they shouldn’t be friendly in that context,” the researcher says.

The researchers believe that as male subjects experienced an increase in testosterone with their partners, this not only led to a rapid increase in positive social responses towards them, but also helped men to act more socially in the future. inspired to. Even when the context changed and they were in the presence of another male. However, the second injection of testosterone caused them to become more aggressive, rapidly changing their behavior depending on the context of the male intruder.

“Testosterone appears to increase context-appropriate behavior. It appears to play a role in increasing propensity and tendency to be protective or aggressive,” says Kelly.

Laboratory experiments, in a sense, curated what males could experience almost simultaneously in the wild. In their natural habitat, Kelly explains, having sex with a partner increases testosterone, allowing them to stay with their partner during and for the foreseeable future, even with declining testosterone levels. is prepared to work.

If a rival enters its burrow, the gerbil will experience another surge of testosterone which will immediately help it to adjust its behavior so that it can deter the rival and protect its young. Testosterone thus appears to help animals rapidly pivot between prosocial and antisocial responses as the social world changes.

The study also examined how testosterone and oxytocin interact biologically. The results showed that male subjects who received testosterone injections showed greater oxytocin activity in their brains during interactions with their partners than did men who received injections.

“We know that the oxytocin and testosterone systems overlap in the brain, but we don’t really understand why. Taken together, our results suggest that one reason for this overlap may be that they affect prosocial behavior. can work together to promote.” Kelly says.

Rather than simply pressing the “on” or “off” button to modulate behavior, hormones play a more subtle role. “It’s like a complicated dashboard where one dial may have to go up a bit while the other goes down,” says the scientist.

Human behaviors are much more complex than those of Mongolian gerbils, but the researchers hope their findings will inform complementary studies in other species, including humans. “Our hormones are similar, and the parts of the brain they act on are also similar so learning how hormones such as testosterone helps other animals adjust to rapidly changing social contexts not only helps us to regulate their behavior but also helps us to control their behavior.” Influencers will help to understand the biological nuts and bolts of, but also to predict, and ultimately to understand how the molecules of the human brain shape our own responses to the social world around us.” The authors draw conclusions.

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