Article

Early Androgen Effects on Spatial and Mechanical Abilities: Evidence From Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia

Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.
Behavioral Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 2.63). 02/2012; 126(1):86-96. DOI: 10.1037/a0026652
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT There is considerable controversy about the origins of sex differences in cognitive abilities, particularly the male superiority in spatial abilities. We studied effects of early androgens on spatial and mechanical abilities in adolescents and young adults with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). On tests of three-dimensional mental rotations, geography, and mechanical knowledge, females with CAH scored higher than their unaffected sisters, and males with CAH scored lower than their unaffected brothers. Exploratory regression analyses suggest that androgens affect spatial ability in females directly and through male-typed activity interests. Findings indicate that early androgens influence spatial and mechanical abilities, and that androgen effects on abilities may occur in part through effects on sex-typed activity interests.

1 Bookmark
 · 
121 Views
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: During early development, testosterone plays an important role in sexual differentiation of the mammalian brain and has enduring influences on behavior. Testosterone exerts these influences at times when the testes are active, as evidenced by higher concentrations of testosterone in developing male than in developing female animals. This article critically reviews the available evidence regarding influences of testosterone on human gender-related development. In humans, testosterone is elevated in males from about weeks 8 to 24 of gestation and then again during early postnatal development. Individuals exposed to atypical concentrations of testosterone or other androgenic hormones prenatally, for example, because of genetic conditions or because their mothers were prescribed hormones during pregnancy, have been consistently found to show increased male-typical juvenile play behavior, alterations in sexual orientation and gender identity (the sense of self as male or female), and increased tendencies to engage in physically aggressive behavior. Studies of other behavioral outcomes following dramatic androgen abnormality prenatally are either too small in their numbers or too inconsistent in their results, to provide similarly conclusive evidence. Studies relating normal variability in testosterone prenatally to subsequent gender-related behavior have produced largely inconsistent results or have yet to be independently replicated. For studies of prenatal exposures in typically developing individuals, testosterone has been measured in single samples of maternal blood or amniotic fluid. These techniques may not be sufficiently powerful to consistently detect influences of testosterone on behavior, particularly in the relatively small samples that have generally been studied. The postnatal surge in testosterone in male infants, sometimes called mini-puberty, may provide a more accessible opportunity for measuring early androgen exposure during typical development. This approach has recently begun to be used, with some promising results relating testosterone during the first few months of postnatal life to later gender-typical play behavior. In replicating and extending these findings, it may be important to assess testosterone when it is maximal (months 1 to 2 postnatal) and to take advantage of the increased reliability afforded by repeated sampling.
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Studies have shown differences in specific cognitive ability domains and risk of Alzheimer’s disease between the men and women at later age. However it is important to know that sex differences in cognitive function during adulthood may have their basis in both organizational effects, i.e., occurring as early as during the neuronal development period, as well as in activational effects, where the influence of the sex steroids influence brain function in adulthood. Further, the rate of cognitive decline with aging is also different between the sexes. Understanding the biology of sex differences in cognitive function will not only provide insight into Alzheimer’s disease prevention, but also is integral to the development of personalized, gender-specific medicine. This review draws on epidemiological, translational, clinical, and basic science studies to assess the impact of sex differences in cognitive function from young to old, and examines the effects of sex hormone treatments on Alzheimer’s disease in men and women.
    Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology 01/2014; · 7.58 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Testosterone is an important hormone in the sexual differentiation of the brain, contributing to differences in cognitive abilities between males and females. For instance, studies in clinical populations such as females with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) who are exposed to high levels of androgens in utero support arguments for prenatal testosterone effects on characteristics such as visuospatial cognition and behaviour. The comparison of opposite-sex (OS) and same-sex (SS) twin pairs can be used to help establish the role of prenatal testosterone. However, although some twin studies confirm a masculinizing effect of a male co-twin regarding for instance perception and cognition it remains unclear whether intra-uterine hormone transfer exists in humans. Our aim was to test the potential influences of testosterone on academic performance in OS twins. We compared ninth-grade test scores and teacher ratings of OS (n=1812) and SS (n=4054) twins as well as of twins and singletons (n=13,900) in mathematics, physics/chemistry, Danish, and English. We found that males had significantly higher test scores in mathematics than females (.06-.15 SD), whereas females performed better in Danish (.33-.49 SD), English (.20 SD), and neatness (.45-.64 SD). However, we did not find that OS females performed better in mathematics than SS and singleton females, nor did they perform worse either in Danish or English. Scores for OS and SS males were similar in all topics. In conclusion, this study did not provide evidence for a masculinization of female twins with male co-twins with regard to academic performance in adolescence. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
    Hormones and Behavior 02/2015; 69. DOI:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2015.01.007 · 4.51 Impact Factor

Full-text (2 Sources)

Download
49 Downloads
Available from
Jun 1, 2014