Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes 1991; 98(5): 89-98
DOI: 10.1055/s-0029-1211105

© J. A. Barth Verlag in Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Testosterone and Musical Talent

Marianne Hassler
  • University of Tübingen, Department of Psychology, Tübingen/Germany
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Publication History

Publication Date:
16 July 2009 (online)


Two recently published hypotheses on the biological basis of special talents are discussed in relation to experimental data obtained from musical composers, instrumentalists, painters, and non-musicians, and from adolescent boys and girls with different levels of musical capacities. Both hypotheses assign an important influence to prenatal testosterone effects on the developing brain. Geschwind and Galaburda (1985) predict that subjects with special talents may have anomalous hemispheric dominance for verbal material. This was confirmed experimentally in adolescents and in adults using a dichotic listening task to assess functional lateralization. Hassler and Nieschlag (1989) expect musicians of both sexes to be psychologically androgynous and to have current testosterone levels that differ from sex-typed males and females. Salivary testosterone was measured in adults and in adolescents. Creative musical behavior was associated with very low testosterone values in males, and with high testosterone levels in females. Sexual activity level and motivation did not differ between males with testosterone levels ≤ 200 pmol/1 and those with > 220 pmol/1. We tentatively suggest from our data that, among a complex interaction of biological and social factors, an optimal testosterone range may exist for the expression of creative musical behavior. Exceeding the range in the course of adolescence may be detrimental for musical creativity in boys.