Does testosterone affect lateralization of brain and behaviour? A meta-analysis in humans and other animal species.


Lateralization of brain and behaviour has been the topic of research for many years in neuropsychology, but the factors guiding its development remain elusive. Based on sex differences in human lateralization, four hypotheses have been postulated that suggest a role for androgens, specifically testosterone. With the discovery that lateralization is a fundamental principle in the organization of brain and behaviour among vertebrates, it has now become possible to experimentally test such hypotheses in animal models. The use of different taxa, humans, other mammalian species and birds (with oestradiol and not testosterone involved in sexual differentiation in birds) facilitates to differentiate between the hypotheses. We used meta-analyses for analysing papers that provided sufficient information, and a semi-quantitative approach based on all relevant studies that we extracted from the literature. We tested the predictions of these hypotheses regarding strength and direction of lateralization for motor output, language and visuospatial cognition in these three taxa. We tested for sex differences and early organizational effects of testosterone (both correlative and experimental studies). We found sex differences in the direction of lateralization for non-human mammals (motor biases similar to humans) and in direction and strength in birds (visual cognitive tasks). However, the prediction that prenatal testosterone exposure affects the direction of lateralization was not supported for humans. In birds and non-human mammals, opposite trends were found, with the effect in non-human mammals being opposite to the expectation based on sex differences. None of the four hypotheses was sufficiently supported and more studies, testing a wider array of functions in different taxa while reporting the data more completely are needed.

DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0282

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@article{Pfannkuche2009DoesTA, title={Does testosterone affect lateralization of brain and behaviour? A meta-analysis in humans and other animal species.}, author={Kristina A Pfannkuche and Anke Bouma and Ton G. G. Groothuis}, journal={Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences}, year={2009}, volume={364 1519}, pages={929-42} }