Testosterone influences spatial strategy preferences among adult male rats

Horm Behav. 2013 May;63(5):800-12. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2013.03.018. Epub 2013 Apr 15.


Males outperform females on some spatial tasks, and this may be partially due to the effects of sex steroids on spatial strategy preferences. Previous work with rodents indicates that low estradiol levels bias females toward a striatum-dependent response strategy, whereas high estradiol levels bias them toward a hippocampus-dependent place strategy. We tested whether testosterone influenced the strategy preferences in male rats. All subjects were castrated and assigned to one of three daily injection doses of testosterone (0.125, 0.250, or 0.500 mg/rat) or a control group that received daily injections of the drug vehicle. Three different maze protocols were used to determine rats' strategy preferences. A low dose of testosterone (0.125 mg) biased males toward a motor-response strategy on a T-maze task. In a water maze task in which the platform itself could be used intermittently as a visual cue, a low testosterone dose (0.125 mg) caused a significant increase in the use of a cued-response strategy relative to control males. Results from this second experiment also indicated that males receiving a high dose of testosterone (0.500 mg) were biased toward a place strategy. A third experiment indicated that testosterone dose did not have a strong influence on the ability of rats to use a nearby visual cue (floating ball) in the water maze. For this experiment, all groups seemed to use a combination of place and cued-response strategies. Overall, the results indicate that the effects of testosterone on spatial strategy preference are dose dependent and task dependent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Orchiectomy
  • Rats
  • Spatial Behavior / drug effects*
  • Testosterone / administration & dosage*


  • Testosterone