Shorter forefingers can mean sporting success says study

New finger study

New finger study

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Having a short forefinger means you are more likely to be good at sport - but also prone to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Tourette’s syndrome.

Fingers can point to anxiety levels as well as physical abilities, according to new research.

By comparing your index and ring fingers, a neuroscientist can tell if you are likely to be anxious, or if you are probably a good athlete.

It is well known adults whose index finger is shorter than their ring finger were exposed to greater amounts of testosterone when they were in the womb.

Both women and men with this characteristic are - on average - better equipped to solve mentally demanding 3D rotation tasks as adults.

As a group, they are also better athletes but liable to having ADHD and Tourette’s.

Dr Carl Pintzka, of the Norwegian Competence Service for Functional MRI, looked at how the brain functions differently in women and men, also testing the theory about the importance of finger length and brain functioning.

In a group of 42 women, whose fingers were measured using a photo copying machine, he administered a drop of testosterone to half, while the others were given a placebo. They were then asked to solve a number of mental tasks.

The goal was to determine the differences in how men’s and women’s brains work, and the significance of finger length and testosterone levels.

Dr Pintza said: “The greatest effect has been found for various physical and athletic measures, where high levels of prenatal testosterone are consistently linked with better capabilities.

“Beyond this we find a number of uncertain results, but a general feature is high levels of testosterone generally correlate with superior abilities on tasks that men usually perform better, such as various spatial tasks like directional sense.”

But the study also linked high levels of testosterone with an increased risk of developing diseases like ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome and autism, mostly common in men.

Conditions like anxiety and depression are associated with low levels of testosterone, making them more common in women.

Dr Pintzka added: “The women who scored best on the mental rotation tasks had high levels of testosterone both prenatally and in their adult lives, while those who scored worst had low levels in both.”

Both boys and girls are exposed to testosterone in the womb. Everyone has different levels of male and female sex hormones.

Some men have a lot of testosterone, some have less, and the same applies to women. Women who have received a lot of prenatal testosterone don’t need much testosterone as adults.

The level of testosterone in the womb affects one’s finger length as an adult.

Dr Pintzka added: “The relationship between the index finger and ring finger in particular indicates how much testosterone you have been exposed to in utero.”

An index finger that is relatively short compared to the ring finger indicates that one has been exposed to a lot of testosterone in the womb, whereas a relatively long index finger suggests a lower exposure.

Dr Pintzka said: “One mechanism behind this relationship is the difference in the receptor density for oestrogen and testosterone in the various fingers in utero.

“This relationship has also been shown to remain relatively stable after birth, which implies it is strictly the foetal hormone balance that determines this ratio.”

The relationship between the index finger and ring finger in humans is associated with a variety of abilities in adulthood.

Dr Pintzka said: “The greatest effect has been found for various physical and athletic measures, where high levels of prenatal testosterone are consistently linked with better capabilities.

“Beyond this we find a number of uncertain results, but a general feature is high levels of testosterone generally correlate with superior abilities on tasks that men usually perform better, such as various spatial tasks like directional sense.”

Conversely, low levels of testosterone are associated with better abilities in verbal memory tasks, such as remembering lists of words.

The study mainly involved researching how testosterone affects different spatial abilities in women. The women were asked to navigate a virtual maze, and to mentally rotate different three dimensional objects.

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