how to increase testosterone levels -- 3/13/17

Today's selection -- from Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine. The conventional view of masculine behavior is that more testosterone results in more assertive masculine behavior. The author refers to this as the "T-Rex" view. However, it may be that the opposite is true.

"Accord­ing to a 'T-Rex' view, high-T [high testosterone] individuals cluster at the competitive end of the continuum with the other aggressive, sexually inflamed risk takers, while low-T characters huddle at the duller but safer and more caring opposite pole.

"Consider, for example, a cichlid fish known as Haplochromis bur­toni that comes from the lakes of East Africa. In this species, only a small number of males secure a breeding territory, and they are not discreet about their privileged social status. In contrast to their drably beige nonterritorial counterparts, territorial males sport bold splashes of red and orange, and intimidating black eye stripes. The typical day for a territorial male involves a busy schedule of unre­constructed masculinity: fighting off intruders, risking predation in order to woo a female into his territory, then, having inseminated her by ejaculating into her mouth, immediately setting off in pursuit of a new female. Add to this the fact that territorial males boast signifi­cantly larger testes and have higher circulating levels of testosterone than submissive nonterritorial males, and a T-Rex view of the situa­tion seems almost irresistible. These high-T fish are kings indeed, pre­sumably thanks to the effects of all that testosterone on their bodies, brain, and behavior. ...

"But even in the cichlid fish, testosterone isn't the omnipotent player it at first seems to be. If it were, then castrating a territorial fish would be a guaranteed method of bringing about his social downfall. Yet it isn't. When a castrated territorial fish is put in a tank with an intact nonterritorial male of a similar size, the castrated male continues to dominate (although less aggressively). Despite his flatlined T levels, the status quo persists. If you want to bring down a ter­ritorial male, no radical surgical operations are required. Instead, simply put him in a tank with a larger territorial male fish. Within a few days, the smaller male will lose his bold colors, neurons in a region of the brain involved in gonadal activity will reduce in size, and his testes will also correspondingly shrink. Exactly the opposite happens when a previously submissive, nonterritorial male is exper­imentally maneuvered into envied territorial status (by moving him into a new community with only females and smaller males): the neurons that direct gonadal growth expand, and his testes -- the pri­mary source of testosterone production -- enlarge. In other words, the T-Rex scenario places the chain of events precisely the wrong way around. As Francis and his colleagues, who carried out these studies, conclude: 'Social events regulate gonadal events.' Or to put it another way, just in case the significance of this sailed past unnoticed, cichlid testes are a social construction."







Cordelia Fine


Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society


W. W. Norton & Company


Copyright 2017 by Cordelia Fine


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