Putting the flight in “fight-or-flight”: Testosterone reactivity to skydiving is modulated by autonomic activation

Stuart F. White, Yoojin Lee, Jenny M. Phan, Shannin N. Moody, Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Sensation-seeking (SS) involves the tendency to pursue exciting activities, potentially including risky behaviors (e.g., substance use, risky sexual behavior). Testosterone is associated with cortisol, SS, and autonomic nervous system (ANS) functioning. Testosterone reactivity/recovery during sky-diving and its relationship to cortisol response, ANS response and SS were examined. Forty-four participants provided reactive saliva samples and autonomic activity data before, during and after sky-diving and as well as basal day saliva samples. Testosterone reactivity/recovery to skydiving was significantly greater than basal day measurements. Testosterone responsivity to skydiving was predicted by increased cortisol, increased sympathetic activity (heart rate) and reduced parasympathetic activity (RMSSD). Independent of physiological effects, increased SS predicted testosterone responsivity to skydiving. These data suggest that testosterone reactivity, and its relationship to ANS responsivity, may be associated with pleasurable responses to risky/intense situations. These data may be useful in developing novel intervention strategies for risky behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-102
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Psychology
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Sensation-seeking
  • Skydiving
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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