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PLoS One. 2014 Mar 24;9(3):e92953. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092953. eCollection 2014.

The effect of acute exercise and psychosocial stress on fine motor skills and testosterone concentration in the saliva of high school students.

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Institute of Sport Science, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Faculty of Human Sciences, Medical School Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany; Department of Sport Science, School of Science and Engineering, Reykjavik University, Reykjavik, Iceland.


Little is known about the influence of different stressors on fine motor skills, the concentration of testosterone (T), and their interaction in adolescents. Therefore, 62 high school students aged 14-15 years were randomly assigned to two experimental groups (exercise, psychosocial stress) and a control group. Exercise stress was induced at 65-75% of the maximum heart rate by running for 15 minutes (n = 24). Psychosocial stress was generated by an intelligence test (HAWIK-IV), which was uncontrollable and characterized by social-evaluative-threat to the students (n = 21). The control group followed was part of a regular school lesson with the same duration (n = 28). Saliva was collected after a normal school lesson (pre-test) as well as after the intervention/control period (post-test) and was analyzed for testosterone. Fine motor skills were assessed pre- and post-intervention using a manual dexterity test (Flower Trail) from the Movement Assessment Battery for Children-2. A repeated measure ANCOVA including gender as a covariate revealed a significant group by test interaction, indicating an increase in manual dexterity only for the psychosocial stress group. Correlation analysis of all students shows that the change of testosterone from pre- to post-test was directly linked (r = -.31, p = .01) to the changes in manual dexterity performance. Participants showing high increases in testosterone from pre- to post-test made fewer mistakes in the fine motor skills task. Findings suggest that manual dexterity increases when psychosocial stress is induced and that improvement of manual dexterity performance corresponds with the increase of testosterone.

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