Teenage boys with behavior problems may be able to blame their brain chemistry, according to a new study. Psychologists studied boys with a history of antisocial behavior and measured their levels of the hormone cortisol, which usually surges during stressful situations, causing people to focus and behave more cautiously. They found that the troubled boys didn’t have the normal cortisol spike when they were put under stress, suggesting that they weren’t getting a chemical signal to regulate their emotions and actions.
Researchers say the findings suggest that some bad behavior should be considered a form of mental illness. “Most research has looked at social factors like peer groups, family life and socioeconomic factors,” said [lead researcher] Graeme Fairchild…. “These findings basically indicate that antisocial behavior is probably more biologically based than many people recognize and is similar to conditions like depression and anxiety” [Reuters].
In a finding that has particular relevance right now, as the American public looks for scapegoats for the current financial crisis, a new study has found that men with higher levels of testosterone are inclined to make riskier financial decisions. Just how much riskier? Those with 33 percent more testosterone than average men invested 10 percent more of their dough. The findings are based on saliva samples from 98 male Harvard students taken before they played an investment game with $250 in real money [Scientific American].
Researchers say they didn’t outright prove that it was Wall Street men’s hormones that got us into this mess, but that the evidence is strongly suggestive. “Although our findings do not address causality, we believe that testosterone may influence how individuals make risky financial decisions,” said researcher Coren Apicella…. A recent study also showed that stock market traders made more money on days when their testosterone levels were highest [LiveScience].