Testosterone affects language areas of the adult human brain

A. Hahn, Georg Kranz, R. Sladky, U. Kaufmann, S. Ganger, A. Hummer, R. Seiger, M. Spies, T. Vanicek, D. Winkler, S. Kasper, C. Windischberger, D.F. Swaab, R. Lanzenberger

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Although the sex steroid hormone testosterone is integrally involved in the development of language processing, ethical considerations mostly limit investigations to single hormone administrations. To circumvent this issue we assessed the influence of continuous high-dose hormone application in adult female-to-male transsexuals. Subjects underwent magnetic resonance imaging before and after 4 weeks of testosterone treatment, with each scan including structural, diffusion weighted and functional imaging. Voxel-based morphometry analysis showed decreased gray matter volume with increasing levels of bioavailable testosterone exclusively in Broca's and Wernicke's areas. Particularly, this may link known sex differences in language performance to the influence of testosterone on relevant brain regions. Using probabilistic tractography, we further observed that longitudinal changes in testosterone negatively predicted changes in mean diffusivity of the corresponding structural connection passing through the extreme capsule. Considering a related increase in myelin staining in rodents, this potentially reflects a strengthening of the fiber tract particularly involved in language comprehension. Finally, functional images at resting-state were evaluated, showing increased functional connectivity between the two brain regions with increasing testosterone levels. These findings suggest testosterone-dependent neuroplastic adaptations in adulthood within language-specific brain regions and connections. Importantly, deteriorations in gray matter volume seem to be compensated by enhancement of corresponding structural and functional connectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1738-1748
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Functional connectivity
  • Language
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Probabilistic tractography
  • Testosterone
  • Voxel-based morphometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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