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Early Hum Dev. 2015 Aug;91(8):451-6. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2015.04.011. Epub 2015 May 26.

Digit ratio (2D:4D) and salivary testosterone, oestradiol and cortisol levels under challenge: Evidence for prenatal effects on adult endocrine responses.

Author information

1
The Hamlyn Centre, Imperial College, London, UK. Electronic address: bcrewthe@imperial.ac.uk.
2
The Hamlyn Centre, Imperial College, London, UK; School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science, Bangor University, Gwynedd, UK.
3
Applied Sports Technology, Exercise and Medicine Research Centre, Swansea University, Swansea, UK.
4
Department of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Digit ratio (2D:4D) is a marker for prenatal sex steroids and a correlate of sporting performance. This association may exist because low 2D:4D is linked to high prenatal levels of testosterone (T) and low oestrogens (E). It was recently suggested that low 2D:4D, and particularly low right-left 2D:4D (or Dr-l), is a marker for T changes in response to physical and aggressive challenges. If correct, this link may in part explain the association between 2D:4D and sports performance.

AIMS:

We tested this hypothesis in adults.

STUDY DESIGN:

Three experimental treatments were completed using a randomised, cross-over design; (i) cycle sprints plus an aggressive video (S+V), (ii) aggressive video plus cycle sprints (V+S), and (iii) a control session.

SUBJECTS:

24 healthy adults (12 men and 12 women).

OUTCOME MEASURES:

Salivary T, oestradiol (E2) and cortisol (C) levels were measured on six occasions across each session and pooled for analysis.

RESULTS:

The S+V treatment was associated with a rise in T and C levels, and Dr-l was significantly and negatively correlated with T and E2 with these effects confined to men. The right 2D:4D and Dr-l were also negatively correlated with the T/C ratio and Dr-l negatively related to the E2/C ratio in men during the S+V treatment.

CONCLUSIONS:

We suggest that the hormonal responses to a challenge are programmed by prenatal levels of T and E with possible links to sporting performance in adulthood.

KEYWORDS:

Development; Exercise; Oestrogens; Stress; Testosterone

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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