In a groundbreaking study destined to flip the entire cosmos on its head, testosterone has been found to make women smarter.
Alright. It was just a tiny bit smarter. And the smart-test administered was a shopping list. And the women who took it only remembered 1.6 more things after 26 weeks of testosterone.
I’ve never heard testosterone referred to as the “IQ hormone.” Maybe the “Hey girls, watch me jump off this shed with a knife in my teeth” hormone. Or the “I am going to throw you down on this bed and pound it into a pile of splinters beneath you” hormone. But smart?
Testosterone does bring an element of reckless abandon to manhood, improving pain tolerance, increasing risk-taking behavior, bulking muscles, and serving up a heapin’ helpin’ of aggression. From an evolutionary standpoint this makes lots of sense. If you’re going to throw a puny little sharp stick at a mastodon leg, you better have some guts. Crazy crazy guts. And some serious T-fueled bravado to make excuses about how often you come back empty-handed, bashed-up, hungry, and horny.
Meanwhile, back at the cave, we women – afloat as we were in collaboration-building estrogen – were strapping babies on our backs, foraging far afield, hauling home sacks of roots and nuts and berries and turning it all into dinner. Looking for healing herbs to bind up those manly mastodon wounds. And maybe some kind of pretty nice-smelling flower or a fluffy new cattail pillow.
Given these primal – but still ingrained – differences, I was very surprised at the study of 90 postmenopausal women who got a little brain boost from 6 months of transdermal testosterone gel. Women who used the gel were able to remember about 2 more words on the International Shopping List Test than they did before they gelled up. Women who used a placebo gel still forgot about the same number of items.
According to lead author Susan R. Davis, of Australia’s Monash University, the uptick in memory, though small, should be enough to prompt a bigger investigation of how testosterone might improve cognition in post-menopausal women.
Because, after all, life hasn’t changed much since the cave-days. Even we memory-ravaged old ladies must still range far afield every day, gathering food for the tribe, hauling it home, and turning it into something tasty, applying band-aids to scraped knees and broken hearts, and buying flowers and pillows.
Men? Not hunting mastodon anymore. But still jumping off sheds, playing with knives and turning bed frames into splinters.