A Single Administration of Testosterone Reduces Fear-Potentiated Startle in Humans

Helmholtz Institute, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Biological Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 10.26). 06/2006; 59(9):872-4. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2005.11.015
Source: PubMed


Ample evidence from animal research indicates that the gonadal steroid hormone testosterone has fear-reducing properties. Human data on this topic, however, are scarce and far less unequivocal. The present study therefore aimed to scrutinize anxiolytic effects of a single dose of testosterone, using a direct physiological index of fear in humans.
Twenty healthy female participants were tested in a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover design involving sublingual administration of a single dose of testosterone. Four hours after intake, we assessed effects on baseline startle and fear-potentiated startle in a verbal threat-of-shock paradigm.
In accordance with predictions, testosterone administration resulted in reduced fear-potentiated startle, without affecting baseline startle.
This study provides direct evidence that a single dose of testosterone reduces fear in humans. The relationship of this effect to previous research on anxiolytic effects of benzodiazepines, as well as possible mechanisms of action, is discussed.

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    • "Given the time frame of this response these variables are expected to be of the cognitive (i.e., information-processing) domain. Most of the evidence for the effects of androgens on cognitive variables comes from research using paradigms that involve the administration of exogenous T to animals and humans (for a review see Bos et al., 2012), which have been shown to reduce vigilance (Van Honk et al., 2005), startle reflex (Hermans et al., 2006) and threat detection in human females (Van Honk and Schutter, 2007), and to reduce fear in other animals (Frye and Seliga, 2001; Aikey et al., 2002). Furthermore, in women T also reduces trust (Bos et al., 2010), increases risk-taking accompanied by increased sensitivity to rewards and reduced sensitivity to punishment (Van Honk et al., 2004), and also facilitates resource acquisition and high status via cooperation (Eisenegger et al., 2010). "
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