Prenatal testosterone levels influence later response to reward
New findings led by Dr. Michael Lombardo, Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen and colleagues at the University of Cambridge indicate that testosterone levels early in fetal development influence later sensitivity of brain regions related to reward processing and affect an individual's susceptibility to engage in behavior, that in extremes, are related to several neuropsychiatric conditions that asymmetrically affect one sex more than the other.
Although present at low levels in females, testosterone is one of the primary sex hormones that exerts substantial influence over the emergence of differences between males and females. In adults and adolescents, heightened testosterone has been shown to reduce fear, lower sensitivity to punishment, increase risk-tasking, and enhance attention to threat. These effects interact substantially with context to affect social behavior.
This knowledge about the effects of testosterone in adolescence and adulthood suggests that it is related to influencing the balance between approach and avoidance behavior. These same behaviors are heightened in the teenage years and also emerge in extremes in many neuropsychiatric conditions, including conduct disorder, depression, substance abuse, autism, and psychopathy.
Scientists have long known that sex differences influence many aspects of psychiatric disorders, including age of disease onset, prevalence, and susceptibility. For example, according to the World Health Organization, depression is twice as common in women than men, whereas alcohol dependence shows the reverse pattern. In addition to many other factors, sex hormone levels are likely to be important factors contributing to sex differences in psychopathology.
However, research to date has mainly focused on sex hormone levels during adolescence and adulthood, when hormone levels are heightened and built upon substantial prior developmental experience. Sex hormone levels are also heightened during critical periods of fetal brain development, but the impact of such prenatal surges in sex hormone levels on subsequent adult brain and behavioral development has received relatively little attention.
"This study is the first to directly examine whether testosterone in fetal development predicts tendencies later in life to engage in approach-related behavior (e.g., fun-seeking, impulsivity, reward responsivity) and also how it may influence later brain development that is relevant to such behaviors," said first author Lombardo.
In this study, they tested a unique cohort of boys, 8 years of age, whose fetal testosterone had been previously measured from amniotic fluid at 13 weeks gestation. The boys were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging technology to assess changes in brain activity while viewing pictures of negative (fear), positive (happy), neutral, or scrambled faces.
They found that increased fetal testosterone predicted more sensitivity in the brain's reward system to positively, compared to negatively, valenced facial cues. This means that reward-related brain regions of boys with higher fetal testosterone levels respond more to positive facial emotion compared to negative facial emotion than boys who with smaller levels of fetal testosterone.
In addition, increased fetal testosterone levels predicted increased behavioral approach tendencies later in life via its influence on the brain's reward system. Lombardo explained, "This work highlights how testosterone in fetal development acts as a programming mechanism for shaping sensitivity of the brain's reward system later in life and for predicting later tendency to engage in approach-related behaviors. These insights may be especially relevant to a number of neuropsychiatric conditions with skewed sex ratios and which affect approach-related behavior and the brain's reward system."
Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, commented, "These remarkable data provide new evidence that hormonal exposures early in life can have lasting impact on brain function and behavior."
More information: The article is "Fetal Programming Effects of Testosterone on the Reward System and Behavioral Approach Tendencies in Humans" by Michael V. Lombardo, Emma Ashwin, Bonnie Auyeung, Bhismadev Chakrabarti, Meng-Chuan Lai, Kevin Taylor, Gerald Hackett, Edward T. Bullmore, and Simon Baron-Cohen (doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.05.027). The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 72, Issue 10 (November 15, 2012)
Journal reference: Biological Psychiatry
Provided by Elsevier
- Extra testosterone reduces your empathy Feb 09, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- How a low-protein diet predisposes offspring to adulthood hypertension Jul 25, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Sensitive testosterone detector linked to less aggression Dec 03, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Prenatal testosterone linked to increased risk of language delay for male infants, study shows Jan 26, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Declining testosterone levels in men not part of normal aging, study finds Jun 23, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Why is zone 1 in liver more prone to ischemic injury?
May 23, 2013 Hi, Is it because around central vein, there is only deoxygenated blood from the vein where as in the periphery there is hepatic artery. Also why...
How can there be villous adenoma in colon, if there are no villi there
May 22, 2013 As title suggest. Thanks :smile:
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
May 21, 2013 Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
(HealthDay)—We've all seen them: the surfers who race to the beach when a hurricane hits, the guy who decides to ride out the storm in his overmatched boat, the tornado chasers who fearlessly steer their ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 14 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Women at a particular stage in their monthly menstrual cycle may be more vulnerable to some of the psychological side-effects associated with stressful experiences, according to a study from UCL.
Psychology & Psychiatry 15 hours ago | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Ernie Pyle – an iconic war correspondent in World War II – reportedly said "There are no atheists in foxholes." A new joint study between two brothers at Cornell and Virginia Wesleyan found that only ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 18 hours ago | 2.5 / 5 (4) | 1
(Medical Xpress)—Research by Stanford scholar Emma Seppala at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education found that post-traumatic stress disorder decreased in veterans who participated ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 18 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Patients with diabetes who are depressed are much more likely to develop episodes of dangerously low blood sugars, or hypoglycemia, than are those who are not depressed, a new study has ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 19 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—A new study by researchers in the US has shown that an ancient virus can be modified to help in the fight against the simian immunodeficiency virus SIV, which is the equivalent in monkeys ...
18 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Two mutations central to the development of infantile myofibromatosis (IM)—a disorder characterized by multiple tumors involving the skin, bone, and soft tissue—may provide new therapeutic targets, according to researchers ...
13 hours ago | 3 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Biological processes are generally based on events at the molecular and cellular level. To understand what happens in the course of infections, diseases or normal bodily functions, scientists would need to ...
16 hours ago | 5 / 5 (4) | 0 |
How can healthy people who hear voices help schizophrenics? Finding the answer for this is at the centre of research conducted at the University of Bergen.
18 hours ago | 4 / 5 (2) | 2
(Medical Xpress)—The way Alzheimer's disease is portrayed by advocacy groups and the media is having undue influence on the euthanasia debate, according to a Deakin University nursing ethics professor.
19 hours ago | not rated yet | 2
Talking on a hands-free device while behind the wheel can lead to a sharp increase in errors that could imperil other drivers on the road, according to new research from the University of Alberta.
12 hours ago | not rated yet | 0