Fingers may have a key role to play in assessing a woman’s anxiety levels as well as athletic abilities, research by neuroscientists has shown.

The role of testosterone is an important part of the study assessing the relationship between the index finger and ring finger to see how much testosterone a person has been exposed to in the womb, explained Carl Pintzka, a researcher at the Norwegian Competence Service for Functional MRI. People with index fingers shorter than the ring finger are known to be exposed to more testosterone, enhancing their physical and athletic abilities, but leaving them exposed to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Tourette’s syndrome.

Pintzka 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, Pintzka administered a drop of testosterone to half, while the other half were given a placebo. The women were then asked to solve a number of mental tasks.

“The greatest effect has been found for various physical and athletic measures, where high levels of prenatal testosterone are consistently linked with better capabilities,” Pintzka said in a statement. “Beyond this we find a number of uncertain results, but a general feature is that high levels of testosterone generally correlate with superior abilities on tasks that men usually perform better, such as various spatial tasks like directional sense.”

However, the study also correlates 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.

Pintzka remains wary of giving definite conclusions as further study is required in the field.

“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,” Pintzka said.