As your testosterone levels go down, does empathy go up?

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Image credit: Stuart Passmore

Charles Ryan has a clinic in San Francisco at which he regularly relieves men of their testosterone. This “chemical castration”, as it is sometimes known, is not a punishment, but a common treatment for prostate cancer. Testosterone doesn’t cause the disease (currently the third most deadly cancer in the UK), but it fuels it.

Before being robbed of their testosterone, [Ryan’s patients] might have been personable and adept at small talk, but they weren’t nearly as interested in other people. He could feel a hypothesis coming on: that as men’s testosterone levels lower, their capacity for empathy will rise.

Ryan started measuring his patients’ “empathy quotients”, using a survey developed for studying autism. It’s too early to release detailed results, he says, but “we do see increases in the empathy scores in many patients on the treatment”.

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[R}esponses to hormonal suppression therapy “are highly variable, based on [individuals’] intrinsic biology. I have patients whose testosterone I take away and they don’t have any [unwanted] side-effects. In fact, they say: ‘I feel better. My brain is less clouded with intrusive thoughts about sex and things like that.’”

[I]t’s complicated and depends on the individual. “Many men, as they age, feel sluggish and lose muscle mass, lose their self-esteem, so I don’t say we shouldn’t ever use supplemental testosterone.”

Read full, original post: Does testosterone make you mean?

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