Testosterone, Lovebirds and Mating: Lessons Learned from Testosterone Therapy


One of the ways that medical science gets its greatest insights on human behavior is by observing other animals. This was demonstrated recently at Johns Hopkins, where a research study on the effects of testosterone therapy on canaries was conducted. The results are intriguing, and may impact the view we take on testosterone replacement therapy in the future.

Mating Behaviour in Songbirds

The study began with a premise that testosterone levels in these songbirds were somehow connected to the singing component of their springtime courtship ritual. Without a song that shows sufficient complexity, the female canaries simply aren’t interested in what the male canaries have to offer.

Researchers divided the male canaries into two groups: one group received testosterone injections directly to the medial preoptic nerve (PON), while the other group had testosterone applied to the entire brain. After treatment, both groups sang a greater number of songs. However, the songs were of lower quality in those birds that received the PON injection.

The Importance of a Whole-Body Approach

The PON controls sex drive in human men as well as male birds, but the study results indicate that testosterone affects much more of the brain than just one localized area. This data once again drives home the point that testosterone replacement therapy must be taken in context as part of whole-body health rather than maintaining a myopic focus on sex drive alone. No hormone, including testosterone, exists in a vacuum. Rather, it’s the balance among all the systems of the body that lead to peak functionality, including sex drive as well as other aspects.