Prenatal Testosterone in Mind: Amniotic Fluid Studies

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Overview

This pioneering study looks at the effects of prenatal testosterone on postnatal development and behavior. Hormonal effects on behavior have long been studied in animals; the unique contribution of this book is to suggest a connection between human fetal hormones and later behavior. It details for the first time testosterone's effect on social and language development, opening a new avenue of research for cognitive neuroscience.

The authors look at samples of amniotic fluid taken during amniocentesis at 16 weeks' gestation, and relate the fetal level of testosterone (which is present in fetuses of both sexes, although in different quantities) to behavior at ages 1, 2, and 4 years. They argue that the amniotic fluid provides a window into the child's past -- a chemical record of that child's time in the womb -- that allows informed prediction about the child's future brain, mind, and behavior. This is not the retrospective speculation of psychoanalysis, they point out, but an opportunity to study development prospectively and trace developmental precursors and causes of later cognition.

The study suggests that prenatal levels of testosterone affect a range of later behaviors in children, from the inclination to make eye contact with others to the size of the vocabulary. It also suggests that prenatal testosterone level may be related to the development of typically "masculine" and
"feminine" behaviors. The study's ongoing research explores whether fetal testosterone has any link with the risk of developing autism. Connecting endocrinology and psychology, the authors propose that there is a biological component to behaviors often thought to be produced by the social environment.

The MIT Press

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What People Are Saying

Steven Pinker

A lucid presentation of a fascinating and ingenious new body of research.

Joe Herbert

Sex differences are one thing, individual differences are another. The emerging success of using variations in the human genome to explain individuality can blind us to the contributions that later phenotypical events make. By relating individual differences in testosterone levels during fetal life with childhood behavior, Baron-Cohen and his colleagues provide a challenging and well-argued concept of the early power of this hormone to shape our future selves: helping to make us what we are, but sometimes -- as in autism -- with devastating consequences.
Combine what this book tells you about testosterone at the dawn our lives with what we know of its later power, and you have a molecule which has truly shaped human history.

From the Publisher
"A thoughtful and original analysis of important problems in the history, evolution,and acquisition of language."—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University,and author of *The Language Instinct*, *Words and Rules*, and *The Stuff of Thought*

"A lively collection on a new and exciting approach to human reasoning."—StevenPinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of *The LanguageInstinct*, *Words and Rules*, and *The Stuff of Thought*

"A lucid presentation of a fascinating and ingenious new body of research."Steven Pinker , Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University,author of The Blank Slate, How the Mind Works, andWords and Rules

"Kenneth Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser helped rejuvenate the study of argument structure in linguistics, and this important new treatise shows off the insight and elegance of their analyses. It is essential reading for anyone interested in argument structure and the lexicon, and a fitting memorial for the late Ken Hale, one of the twentieth century's most beloved linguists."—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of*The Language Instinct*, *Words and Rules*, and *The Stuff of Thought*

"A lucid presentation of a fascinating and ingenious new body of research."—StevenPinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of *The LanguageInstinct*, *Words and Rules*, and *The Stuff of Thought*

"Sex differences are one thing, individual differences are another. The emerging success of using variations in the human genome to explain individuality can blind us to the contributions that later phenotypical events make. By relating individual differences in testosterone levels during fetal life with childhood behavior, Baron-Cohen and his colleagues provide a challenging and well-argued concept of the early power of this hormone to shape our future selves: helping to make us what we are, but sometimes — as in autism — with devastating consequences. Combine what this book tells you about testosterone at the dawn our lives with what we know of its later power, and you have a molecule which has truly shaped human history."—JoeHerbert, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Cambridge

"*The Cognitive Neurosciences III* is a magnificent accomplishment. It covers topics from ions to consciousness, from reflexes to social psychology. It is authoritative and encyclopedic, but also lively and unafraid of controversy. Michael Gazzaniga, The MIT Press, and the community of cognitive neuroscientists are to be congratulated for assembling this landmark of twentieth-century science and thrilling preview of what we will learn in the twenty-first."—StevenPinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of *The LanguageInstinct*, *Words and Rules*, and *The Stuff of Thought*Please note: This endorsement is identical to Pinker's endorsement for the second edition of the book (with the title changed, of course). He has approved our use of it for the new edition.

Joe Herbert

Sex differences are one thing, individual differences are another. The emerging success of using variations in the human genome to explain individuality can blind us to the contributions that later phenotypical events make. By relating individual differences in testosterone levels during fetal life with childhood behavior, Baron-Cohen and his colleagues provide a challenging and well-argued concept of the early power of this hormone to shape our future selves: helping to make us what we are, but sometimes -- as in autism -- with devastating consequences. Combine what this book tells you about testosterone at the dawn our lives with what we know of its later power, and you have a molecule which has truly shaped human history.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262524568
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 1/20/2006
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 1,392,579
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor in Developmental Psychopathology and Director of the
Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, is the author of
Mindblindness (MIT Press, 1997) and The Essential
Difference: The Truth about the Male and Female Mind
.

Svetlana Lutchmaya received her Ph.D. in 2001 from the the University of
Cambridge.

Rebecca Knickmeyer is a doctoral candidate at the Autism Research Centre.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Fetal testosterone 1
2 Why study fetal testosterone? 13
3 Cerebral lateralization and animal studies 21
4 Disorders of sexual development 33
5 Research strategies for studying hormone effects 49
6 "Amniocentesized children" : from fetus to 12 months 55
7 "Amniocentesized children" : from fetus to 24 months 81
8 "Amniocentesized children" : from fetus to 48 months 91
9 Limitations of the reported studies and future directions for research 97
Appendix 103
References 107
Index 129
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