Testosterone can foster friendly, prosocial behavior in males, a new animal study finds. The Proceedings of the Royal Society B published the research on Mongolian gerbils conducted by neuroscientists at Emory University.
“For what we believe is the first time, we’ve demonstrated that testosterone can directly promote nonsexual, prosocial behavior, in addition to aggression, in the same individual,” says Aubrey Kelly, Emory assistant professor of psychology and first author of the study. “It’s surprising because normally we think of testosterone as increasing sexual behaviors and aggression. But we’ve shown that it can have more nuanced effects, depending on the social context.”
The work also revealed how testosterone influences the neural activity of oxytocin cells — the so-called “love hormone” associated with social bonding.
Richmond Thompson, a neuroscientist at Oxford College of Emory University, is co-author of the study.
Kelly’s lab has recently focused on the neural effects of oxytocin using rodent experimental models. Thompson’s lab investigates the neural effects of steroids in fish. Both scientists are trying to get at the question of how hormones work in the brain to allow an animal to rapidly change its behavior, depending on the social context.
In addition to sharing this research interest, Kelly and Thompson share a home as a married couple.
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