Exogenous testosterone affects early threat processing in socially anxious and healthy women

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Biological Psychology, Volume 129, p.82-89 (2017)




Testosterone; Social anxiety Event-related potentials; Emotional stroop; Social threat


Testosterone plays an important role in social threat processing. Recent evidence suggests that testosterone
administration has socially anxiolytic effects, but it remains unknown whether this involves early vigilance or
later, more sustained, processing-stages. We investigated the acute effects of testosterone administration on
social threat processing in 19 female patients with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and 19 healthy controls. Eventrelated
potentials (ERPs) were recorded during an emotional Stroop task with subliminally presented faces.
Testosterone induced qualitative changes in early ERPs (< 200 ms after stimulus onset) in both groups. An
initial testosterone-induced spatial shift reflected a change in the basic processing (N170/VPP) of neutral faces,
which was followed by a shift for angry faces suggesting a decrease in early threat bias. These findings suggest
that testosterone specifically affects early automatic social information processing. The decreased attentional
bias for angry faces explains how testosterone can decrease threat avoidance, which is particularly relevant for