Testosterone and it’s effect on emotional control.

Nuts. That’s what first comes to mind when most of us hear the word psychopaths. Well, new research suggests we might be on to something.

A study from the Netherlands shows that testosterone, produced in the balls, may hold the key to differences between  ‘normal’ brains and those who are a little more Norman Batesy.

Professor of Psychopathology Karin Roelofs and her team at the Donders Institute, tested a group of 15 criminal psychopaths, focusing on how T affects emotional control and decisions.

The general image of psychopaths is that they are cold blooded and logical. Less well known is the trouble they have with temper and impulse control in some situations. Troubles with the law often come from them being unable to properly understand social interactions or show restraint if it’s needed.

It’s hoped that now the reason for their actions are better understood it might lead to new treatments.

A group of ‘normal’ people joined psychopaths and were asked to carry out tasks while in a MRI scanner, so their brain activity could be measured. The team wanted test reactions times and tendencies to move a joystick towards them when shown a happy face or push it away in response to an angry face.

The normal group’s scans showed the expected connections between parts of the brain responsible for making choices and the area which manages emotion. Differences arose when the subjects were asked to reverse their responses. Pull the joystick towards them for angry faces and push it away for happy faces.

Going against our natural instincts like this needs a level of control and logic which the psychopaths struggled with.

Prof Roelofs said,

“In people with psychopathy, and especially in patients with high endogenous T levels, significantly less activity in the prefrontal brain regions and less communication between the prefrontal brain and the amygdala was observed. Thus there was less communication between emotion control regions. The research results provide a neuro-hormonal explanation for emotional regulation problems in psychopathic patients.”

Nobody is saying T is the cause of mental problems; in fact most agree now that the benefits of high T far outweigh any risks.

Healthy amounts can help burn fat, build muscle, as well as improving mood and sex drive. More recent evidence also points to it protecting against type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

So relax guys, there’s no need to swap all those T boosting foods in the fridge for human heads just yet.

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