Testosterone reactivity is associated with reduced neural response to reward in early adolescence

Stuart F. White, Yoojin Lee, Michael W. Schlund, Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff, Cecile D. Ladouceur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The marked increase in adolescent reward-seeking behavior has important implications for adaptive and maladaptive development. Reward-seeking is linked to increased testosterone and increased neural responses to reward cues. How acute testosterone changes modulate neural reward systems remains unclear. Based on previous work, adolescents, particularly males, showing an increase in endogenous testosterone reactivity were hypothesized to show increased neural response to reward in ventromedial prefrontal cortex, ventral striatum, and posterior cingulate cortex. Sixty-one healthy adolescents aged 10–13 (38 female, mean age = 12.01 [SD = 1.00]) completed a reward-cue processing task during fMRI. Saliva samples to be assayed for testosterone were collected immediately before and after scanning. Acute testosterone changes were not associated with variation in behavioral performance. Within ventromedial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices, increased acute testosterone change was associated with reduced discrimination between rewarded and un-rewarded trials. Results suggest that increasing levels of testosterone may result in reduced attention to/salience of task irrelevant information. In contrast to previous studies that found a positive association between testosterone and neural response to reward, the reward information in the current paradigm was irrelevant to success in task performance. These results are consistent with theoretical conceptualization of testosterone's role in reproduction, which involves a shift in salience to short-term relative to long-term goals. These data further emphasized the need to consider context in the study of hormones; specific behaviors will be up- or down-regulated by a hormone based on the fit of the behavior with the broader contextual goal being orchestrated by the hormone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112593
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Adolescence
  • Posterior cingulate cortex
  • Reward
  • Testosterone
  • Ventromedial prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Testosterone reactivity is associated with reduced neural response to reward in early adolescence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this