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Testosterone reduces generosity through cortical and subcortical mechanisms


Ou, Jianxin; Wu, Yin; Hu, Yang; Gao, Xiaoxue; Li, Hong; Tobler, Philippe N (2021). Testosterone reduces generosity through cortical and subcortical mechanisms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(12):e2021745118.

Abstract

Recent evidence has linked testosterone, a major sex hormone, to selfishness in economic decision-making. Here, we aimed to investigate the neural mechanisms through which testosterone reduces generosity by combining functional MRI with pharmacological manipulation among healthy young males in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, between-subject design. After testosterone or placebo gel administration, participants performed a social discounting task in which they chose between selfish options (benefiting only the participant) and generous options (providing also some benefit to another person at a particular social distance). At the behavioral level, testosterone reduced generosity compared to the placebo. At the neural level (n = 60), the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) encoded the other-regarding value of the generous option during generous choices, and this effect was attenuated by testosterone, suggesting that testosterone reduced the consideration of other’s welfare as underpinned by TPJ activity. Moreover, TPJ activity more strongly reflected individual differences in generosity in the placebo than the testosterone group. Furthermore, testosterone weakened the relation between the other-regarding value of generous decisions and connectivity between the TPJ and a region extending from the insula into the striatum. Together, these findings suggest that a network encompassing both cortical and subcortical components underpins the effects of testosterone on social preferences.

Abstract

Recent evidence has linked testosterone, a major sex hormone, to selfishness in economic decision-making. Here, we aimed to investigate the neural mechanisms through which testosterone reduces generosity by combining functional MRI with pharmacological manipulation among healthy young males in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, between-subject design. After testosterone or placebo gel administration, participants performed a social discounting task in which they chose between selfish options (benefiting only the participant) and generous options (providing also some benefit to another person at a particular social distance). At the behavioral level, testosterone reduced generosity compared to the placebo. At the neural level (n = 60), the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) encoded the other-regarding value of the generous option during generous choices, and this effect was attenuated by testosterone, suggesting that testosterone reduced the consideration of other’s welfare as underpinned by TPJ activity. Moreover, TPJ activity more strongly reflected individual differences in generosity in the placebo than the testosterone group. Furthermore, testosterone weakened the relation between the other-regarding value of generous decisions and connectivity between the TPJ and a region extending from the insula into the striatum. Together, these findings suggest that a network encompassing both cortical and subcortical components underpins the effects of testosterone on social preferences.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:Altruistic preferences, androgen, temporoparietal junction, prosocial behavior, social cognition
Language:English
Date:23 March 2021
Deposited On:16 Apr 2021 14:42
Last Modified:23 Sep 2021 00:00
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2021745118
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID100019_176016
  • : Project TitleMechanisms for social learning
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID100014_165884
  • : Project TitleThe role of dopamine in value-based decision making

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