Congratulations to the journal Hormones and Behavior for its notable contribution to the scientific study of behavior and my thanks to those responsible for dedicating this issue of the Journal to that 1959 paper on the “Organizing Action…” It comes as no surprise to me that the concepts set forth in that article are still relevant in today's world of scientific investigation of behavior. What I do find surprising is that I am still around. I am saddened that Bob Goy who was younger than I is not with us to speak to the matter at hand. It would be too much to wish that Will Young were here, he was considerably older than Bob Goy, Arnie Gerall, and I and it was in his “Endocrine Lab” that we carried out the research reported in our 1959 paper. The laboratory in which we studied hormones and sexual behavior in guinea pigs was euphemistically referred to in the community as the Health Research Laboratory. It needs be recognized that we were operating in the Dark Ages of Sex in the period between Kinsey and the sexual revolution. Little in our “Organizing Action” paper was new but what was new was very new. As early as 1938 Dantchakoff had reported that prenatal androgen treatment masculinized the reproductive anatomy of female guinea pigs and that they displayed male-like mounting behavior as adults. However, untreated females also display male-like mounting behavior but Dantchakoff provided no statistical analysis of the difference in mounting frequency. Early in the 1940's van Wagenen and associates had reported on the reproductive anatomy of androgen induced female monkey pseudo-hermaphrodites but nothing was suggested about possible changes in behavior. Clearly, what was new in our “Organizing Action” paper was the concept that the brain controlling behavior had been changed by prenatal exposure to testosterone, the brain had been masculinized. In the paper we wrote of testosterone or some metabolite acting on “those central nervous tissues in which patterns of sexual behavior are organized”. My early thought was to suggest that the hypothalamus was the site of action but a review with my collogues recommended we leave that speculation for another time and so it was. Even before the Organization paper was published some members of the lab were busy following up on the Organization principle with research on the behavior of male guinea pigs whose mothers had been treated with testosterone during pregnancy. Others were studying the effects of depriving genetic male rats of testosterone prenatally or during neonatal development on adult sexual behavior and responsiveness to various hormones. Soon after publication of the Organization paper scientists across the country and in Europe set about determining whether the effect of prenatal treatment with testosterone propionate that we reported for the guinea pig applied to other species. There was at the time considerable interest in the behavior of young girls that had been inadvertently exposed to various androgenic substances during fetal development. Did our work with the guinea pig have any relevance to the treatment and behavior of these young girls? It was in this context that we came to consider undertaking experiments with monkeys. Rhesus monkeys were, after all, primates as were these young girls. Most readers probably know that we carried out a number of studies on the behavior of genetic females rhesus monkeys treated prenatally with testosterone. Not only did we study their sexual behavior but behavior that extended beyond that which was purely sexual such as play and aggressive behavior. We found that the principles proposed in our work with the guinea pig applied to rhesus monkeys as well, and by implication to primates in general including human beings. A few years after publishing the results of our study of the behavior of rhesus monkeys treated prenatally with testosterone propionate (or TP as we lovingly called it) I came to believe that a new line of inquiry was needed. Determining optimal dosage levels and time of administration of TP or other androgenic substances to a host of pregnant female laboratory animals was not the way to go. However, there followed increased research on the human condition where sexual orientation was a matter of concern. Our work may have sparked interest in the problem and led to increased research in that area. The enthusiasm with which our paper was received by the scientific community was certainly gratifying. In retrospect however it was carrying out the research in itself that I found most rewarding. The Endocrine Society has made a reprint of Phoenix, Goy. Gerall, and Young, 1959 available on their website http://endo.endojournals.org .</P>
Hormones and Behavior – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2009
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