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Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior

Testosterone modulation of anxiety in gonadally-suppressed male rhesus monkeys: a role for gonadotropins?


PMID 23333155

Abstract

Testosterone (T) has repeatedly been shown to have anxiolytic properties in rodents, but findings in primates are more mixed. To examine the effects of exogenous T on anxiety, we tested pharmacologically-castrated adult male rhesus monkeys in a modified version of the Human Intruder Paradigm, which measured defensive responses to an unfamiliar human staring directly at them for 2 min. Monkeys were tested at 2 week intervals during 4 experimental conditions lasting 4 weeks each: at baseline, during treatment with the gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist leuprolide acetate (200 μg/kg; Lupron phase), during treatment with Lupron+T enanthate (TE, 5 mg/kg; TE phase) and during treatment with Lupron+oil vehicle (oil phase). We found that the number of anxious behaviors was lower during periods of low T (Lupron only and Lupron+oil phases) than during the Lupron+TE phase. No change in pacing or watching behavior was observed. Thus, in contrast to rodent data, we found no evidence for anxiolytic properties of T in male rhesus monkeys. Rather, T supplementation restored baseline levels of anxiety in Lupron-treated monkeys. These discrepant findings may be best explained by the low levels of gonadotropins achieved by the GnRH agonist. We suggest that Lupron-induced luteinizing hormone (LH) suppression reduced anxiety and that this effect was abolished by T administration. This interpretation is consistent with the view that T increases emotional reactivity to a potential threat and facilitates adaptive arousal response in face of immediate social challenge.