BOSTON - While the male hormone testosterone is usually associated with sex drive and aggression, a new study finds that it can also promote cuddling.
Neuroscientists at Emory University found that testosterone, in addition to aggression, can promote nonsexual, prosocial behavior in the same individual. They studied Mongolian gerbils, which tend to pair off and form lasting bonds, raising their pups together, much like humans. Males are affectionate toward pregnant females but also territorial.
When the researchers injected male rodents with testosterone, they were even more cuddly and prosocial with pregnant females, becoming "super partners." When faced with a male intruder, initially these male gerbils were unusually friendly toward the unknown visitor. However, when given another shot of testosterone they became more hostile toward the intruders, chasing them away.
The researchers concluded that testosterone enhances behavior depending on the context. More affectionate in certain situations but more hostile in others.
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