What Role Does Testosterone Play In The Male Body – Reducing testosterone “may lead to an increase in empathy… and a lessening of aggression,” says one researcher. Photography: Guardian Design Team
The male “risk-taking” hormone is blamed for everything from sexual violence to the financial crisis, but some researchers are starting to question the alleged links.
- 1 What Role Does Testosterone Play In The Male Body
- 1.0.1 Testosterone And Transgender Athletic Performance
- 1.0.2 Testosterone Therapy Effects: What To Expect With Trt
- 1.0.3 The Male Warrior Hypothesis: Testosterone Related Cooperation And Aggression In The Context Of Intergroup Conflict
- 1.0.4 Healthy Testosterone Levels Play A Crucial Role In Men’s Overall Health
- 1.1 High Levels Of Testosterone Affect Women And Men Differently
What Role Does Testosterone Play In The Male Body
Charles Ryan has a clinic in San Francisco where he regularly relieves men’s testosterone. This “chemical castration,” as it is sometimes known, is not a punishment but a common treatment for prostate cancer. Testosterone does not cause the disease (currently the third deadliest cancer in the UK), but it fuels it, so oncologists use drugs to reduce the amount produced by the testicles.
Testosterone And Transgender Athletic Performance
Ryan has gotten to know his patients well over the years, listening to their concerns and observing changes in them as their testosterone levels drop. Because it involves the so-called “male hormone”, the therapy presents existential challenges for many of those it treats. They know that every day, millions of people – from bodybuilders and cheating athletes to menopausal women – increase their natural testosterone levels with the aim of increasing their libido, muscle mass, confidence and energy. So what happens when production is suppressed? Can they lose their sexual desire? Your strength? Your will to win?
Fears are not always unfounded. Side effects may also include fatigue and weight gain. But Ryan also witnessed positives. As a professor of medicine and urology at the University of California, he has noticed that medical students who have come through his clinic in the 18 years he has been treating prostate cancer invariably comment, “Dr. Ryan, your patients are so nice.” He jokingly responds: “It’s because they don’t have testosterone. They can’t be bad.
Could there be some truth to this simplistic answer? Ryan knew his patients weren’t always so kind. Before they were robbed of their testosterone, they might be personable and adept at small talk, but they weren’t all that interested in other people. He could feel a hypothesis emerging: as men’s testosterone levels decreased, their capacity for empathy would increase. In his new book, The Virility Paradox, he argues that “the fact that reduced testosterone in these elderly men can lead to increased empathy, greater emotional involvement in relationships and a softening of aggression may be something of a silver lining.” of hope.”
Ryan began measuring his patients’ “empathy quotient” using a survey designed to study autism. It’s too early to release detailed results, he says, but “we see increases in empathy scores in many patients in treatment.”
Testosterone Therapy Effects: What To Expect With Trt
He also delved into the literature on testosterone, trying to understand what exactly was happening to them. However, try as he might, he found little conclusive evidence for many of the claims made about testosterone, such as a link between hormone levels and risk-taking or sexual violence. “There is a lot of ambiguity in science,” he says. Many of the studies were carried out on disappointingly small numbers of people.
Ryan is one of several researchers questioning the accepted wisdom about testosterone. It is often presented as an excuse for patriarchal society, in arguments such as: women, with their lower testosterone levels, have evolved to nurture and multitask in the domestic sphere, while men are programmed to take risks, compete and provide as many women as possible with sperm, thus ensuring the future of the species. But, as Ryan points out, “obviously behavior and cognition are extraordinarily complex and do not revolve around one molecule.”
Psychologist Cordelia Fine argues convincingly that it is our culture, not our hormones, that most influences gender behaviors. As she writes in Testosterone Rex (winner of the 2017 Royal Society Scientific Book Award), testosterone was blamed for the 2007-08 financial crisis, but studies show that although women have lower levels than men, they can have a bigger appetite. risk – even when it comes to financial decisions. She discovered similar stories when it comes to the evolutionary need for more sexual partners (more babies are produced if women also sleep with someone) and competition for status.
Fine’s courage in challenging the scientific status quo could be seen as classic testosterone-fueled behavior. She has cojones, you can tell. She claims that many typically feminine behaviors, like deciding to have children, are fraught with risks, but women’s risks don’t seem to count when it comes to the testosterone mythology.
The Male Warrior Hypothesis: Testosterone Related Cooperation And Aggression In The Context Of Intergroup Conflict
Although Ryan approaches the topic from a different angle, both authors highlight how little research there is on testosterone in women. And yet, we know it’s vital for them (for example, oral contraception reduces testosterone levels, which can lead to decreased mood and libido). It can also influence sexual orientation, Ryan writes, with studies showing that “self-identified lesbians are likely to have [indications of] higher fetal testosterone levels than women who identify as heterosexual.”
The lack of research, however, has not stopped a fierce debate over the role of testosterone in women’s sport, with high levels seen as conferring an unfair advantage. Athlete Caster Semenya, who won the gold medal in the women’s 800m at the 2016 Olympics, has extremely high natural testosterone levels for a woman. She had to prove her gender and medically suppress the hormone before competing (although this decision is currently on hold). However, in 2016, the International Olympic Committee decided that transgender women could compete without undergoing surgery, as long as their testosterone levels were not higher than those of cisgender women.
Not that testosterone levels are consistent in anyone. They rise and fall all the time, according to season, health, relationship and parental status, age, time of day (highest in the morning), and emotional responses. When a man hears a woman cry, his testosterone decreases. When a person cares for their child, the “bonding” or “love” hormone oxytocin increases, while testosterone drops. If a threat to status or territory is perceived, testosterone increases again. It is the situations, even the culture, that seem to pull the hormone strings. Testosterone, in both men and women, also works on a “feed-forward” system: when you gain something, you get a boost in testosterone which, in addition to making you feel dominant and confident, increases your sensitivity to the hormone. – encouraging more hubris and quests to win.
Another of the dangers of studying testosterone is that there are three significant measures of how strong it is in you. You can check the levels in your bloodstream, but we already know how they fluctuate. The second measurement is the number and sensitivity of androgen receptors, which vary significantly from person to person. (Testosterone is one of three hormones known as androgens, and the receptors are what allow them to act on our body’s cells.) The third is the amount of testosterone we were exposed to in the womb, most of which is produced by the fetus. in itself. This exposure is more difficult to assess, although the difference between the length of the index and ring fingers is often used as a marker. The smaller the difference, the theory goes, the greater the fetal exposure.
Healthy Testosterone Levels Play A Crucial Role In Men’s Overall Health
This complex web, says Ryan, means that responses to hormone suppression therapy “are highly variable, based on [individuals’] intrinsic biology. I have patients whose testosterone I remove and they do not have any [undesirable] side effects. In fact, they say, ‘I feel better. My brain is less cluttered with intrusive thoughts about sex and things like that.’”
In a mirror-image experiment of sorts, writer Ann Mallen recently recounted how she accidentally rubbed testosterone cream into her skin every day for a month due to a mix-up at the pharmacy. She wrote in the Washington Post that her sexual appetite had become a constant distraction, as had her new, persistent bouts of “irrational rage.” She concluded that “beneath the high-pitched whine of our sexual hormones, we are neither [male nor female].”
Because women respond better than men to testosterone supplementation, they were used in one of the major studies on how testosterone essentially removes the burden of empathy in moral decision-making. It is known as the “tram experience”. Imagine a runaway tram careening down the tracks toward five unsuspecting workers. There is a lever that would divert the tram to another track, but there is someone working on that track too. “You have to kill someone to save five other people,” says Ryan, and you have to act fast.
The Utrecht University researchers gave some participants a testosterone injection the night before presenting them with the dilemma. “The number of respondents who were willing to kill to save people and their confidence in carrying out the act increased,” says Ryan. “And the error they demonstrated was significantly reduced.”
High Levels Of Testosterone Affect Women And Men Differently
This doesn’t mean that empathetic people can’t make difficult decisions. Hormones are a small part of a complex cognitive picture. Aaron, a high-level lawyer treated by Ryan, was an expert at suppressing his empathy to win a case. But as his testosterone dissipated, he became more attentive and began asking Ryan about his family. In a commitment
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