Testosterone may increase selective attention to threat in young male macaques

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Animal studies indicate that sex hormones have widespread effects on the brain, cognition and emotion, but findings in humans are inconsistent. Well-controlled studies in nonhuman primates are crucial to resolve these discrepancies. In this study, we examined the effects of testosterone (T) on emotion in male rhesus monkeys. Six young adult males were tested on two emotional tasks during three hormonal conditions in a crossover design: when intact at baseline and when pharmacologically hypogonadal with add-back of T or placebo. The emotional tasks were the Approach-Avoidance task, which tested behavioral responses to three categories of objects (familiar, novel, and negative) and a Social Playback task which tested behavioral responses to scenes of unfamiliar conspecifics engaged in three types of social activities (neutral, positive, or negative). Following a 4-week baseline period, monkeys were treated with Depot Lupron, 200μg/kg before being randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups: Depot Lupron+Testosterone Enanthate (TE, 20mg/kg) or Depot Lupron+oil vehicle. In each treatment group, monkeys received one injection of Lupron and one injection of TE or one injection of Lupron and one injection of oil at the onset of a 4-week testing period, before crossing over to the alternate treatment for an additional 4weeks of testing. TE treatment had no effect on behavioral measures in the Approach-Avoidance task. For the Social Playback task, however, TE significantly increased watching time of video clips which depicted fights between unfamiliar conspecifics. The enhancing effect of T on watching time for negative social scenes is consistent with human data suggesting that T decreases aversion or facilitates approach to threatening social stimuli. Further studies are needed to understand the mechanisms by which T may mediate responsiveness to social threat in male primates. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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