The Frontal Cortex

The Psychology of Testosterone

In this otherwise excellent summary of the physiology of testosterone, the NY Times leaves out one crucial element: it’s psychological effect. And no, I’m not just talking about the placebo effect. As I mentioned earlier, testosterone is well known for producing a euphoric high. We already know Landis was drowning his stage 16 sorrows in whisky. Why not add a little hormone to the mix as well? As researchers at USC note, “Testosterone overdose resembles opiate intoxication.”

Obviously, we might never know if Landis broke the rules and took synthetic hormone. (Athletes have no incentive to be honest; they can’t cop a plea.) But I don’t think that we should be evaluating the benefts of testosterone purely in terms of muscle mass and red blood cells. When it comes to talking about athletes, we all turn back into mind-body dualists. We forget that our brain is also full of hormones, and tripling your normal hormonal ratios is bound to profoundly mess with your head. (Apparently in a good way, given Landis’ stage 17 performance.)

Comments

  1. #1 natural cynic
    August 13, 2006

    But was Landis still on his high on the subsequent days when his testosterone should have remained high enough to be easily detectable – but wasn’t detected?

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