It's a Guy Thing: Extra Testosterone Improves Verbal Ability
O'Connor tells WebMD that men with a condition known as hypogonadism, in which their bodies produce abnormally low levels of testosterone, tend to do worse on spatial-ability tests than men with normal testosterone levels. In addition, in studies of female-to-male transsexuals -- women who receive testosterone injections as part of a sex-change program -- the women start out with typical female thought patterns, but after three months of testosterone therapy, they often exhibit enhanced spatial abilities and decreases in verbal skills.
O'Connor and colleagues say that the results of the latest study may contribute to the understanding of hormone-replacement therapy in men and to efforts to develop a male contraceptive. Some contraceptive methods now under study involve weekly or monthly injections of testosterone, which has been shown to suppress sperm production in many men.
The FDA recently approved a testosterone skin patch for treatment of men with hypogonadism. But testosterone supplements are not recommended for men with normal levels of the hormone, since it could increase the risk of enlargement of the prostate gland and encourage the development of prostate cancer. Injections of testosterone and other "anabolic steroids" are sometimes illegally used by athletes to improve muscle mass, but there are significant dangers associated with its use. These include heart disease and the potential for violent behavior.
Morley cautions that the results of the British study could be misleading. "The problem with giving 200 milligrams of testosterone to young men, without carefully looking at their testosterone status to start with, is that in some of them you may actually be producing an increase in testosterone, but in some you may actually be decreasing it a little bit, depending on when you test for it," he tells WebMD.