Philadelphia, March 25, 2021 – Anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS), a synthetic version of the male sex hormone testosterone, are sometimes used as a medical treatment for hormone imbalance. But the vast majority of AAS is used to improve athletic performance or build muscle, because it is paired with strength training. The use of AAS increases muscle mass and strength, and its use is known to have many side effects, from acne to heart problems to increased aggression. New research now suggests that AAS can also have detrimental effects on the brain, causing it to age prematurely.
The report appears in Biological psychiatry: cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging, published by Elsevier.
“The use of anabolic steroids is associated with a number of medical and psychological side effects,” said lead author Dr. Astrid Bjørnebekk, Department of Mental Health and Addiction, University Hospital Oslo, Oslo, Norway. “However, since anabolic steroids have only been in the public domain for about 35 years, we are still at an early stage of assessing the full range of effects after prolonged use. The least studied effects are those related to the brain.”
Steroid hormones easily enter the brain, and sex hormone receptors are found throughout the brain. Because AAS is administered in much higher doses than those found naturally in the body, they could have a detrimental effect on the brain, especially over a longer period of use. Previous studies have shown that AAS users had poorer results on cognitive tests than non-users.
Dr. Bjørnebekk and colleagues performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain of 130 male weightlifters with a history of prolonged use of AAS and 99 weightlifters who had never used AAS. Using data collected from nearly 2,000 healthy men aged 18 to 92 years. The researchers used machine learning to determine the predicted age of the brains of each of their participants, and then determined the age gap in the brain: the difference between the chronological age of each of the participants and their predicted brain age. Advanced brain age is associated with impaired cognitive performance and an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Not surprisingly, AAS users had a larger age gap in the brain compared to non-users. Those who depend on AAS or have a longer history of use have shown accelerated brain aging. The researchers explained the use of other substances and depression in men, which did not explain the difference between the groups.
“This important large-scale study shows that use is associated with deviant brain aging, with a potential impact on quality of life in old age. The findings may be directly beneficial to health professionals and may potentially have preventive implications, where brain effects are also included in the assessment. risks for young men who are wondering whether to use anabolic steroids, “added Dr. Bjørnebekk.
Cameron Carter, Ph.D. Med., Editor of the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, told the study: “The results of this brain imaging study should be of concern to athletes who use anabolic steroids to improve performance and suggest that adverse effects on behavior and cognition previously have been shown to be associated with long-term use are the result of effects on the brain in the form of accelerated brain aging. “
Notes for editors
The article is “Long-term use of anabolic androgenic steroids associated with deviant brain aging”, Astrid Bjørnebekk, Tobias Kaufmann, Lisa Hauger, Sandra Klonteig, Ingunn Hullstein, Lars Westlye (https: /
Copies of this paper are available to accredited journalists upon request; please contact Rhiannon Bugno at [email protected] or +1 254 522 9700. Journalists wishing to speak to the authors can contact Astrid Bjørnebekk at [email protected] or +47 9414 0625.
The affiliations of the authors and the disclosure of financial data and conflicts of interest are available in the article.
Cameron S. Carter, Ph.D. Med., Is a professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of the Center for Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis. His disclosures of financial data and conflicts of interest are available here.
About Biological psychiatry: cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging
Biological psychiatry: cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging is the official journal of the Society for Biological Psychiatry, whose purpose is to promote excellence in scientific research and education in fields that investigate the nature, causes, mechanisms, and treatment of disorders of thought, feeling, or behavior. In line with this mission, this internationally published rapid-publication journal focuses on studies that use the tools and constructs of cognitive neuroscience, including a range of noninvasive neuroimaging and human extra- and intracranial physiological imaging methodologies. It publishes both basic and clinical studies, including those involving genetic data, pharmacological challenges, and approaches to computational modeling. Impact Factor rating for Biological psychiatry: cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging is 5,335. http: // www.
As a global leader in information and analytics, Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. We do this by enabling insight and critical decision-making for customers in global research and health ecosystems.
In everything we publish, we adhere to the highest standards of quality and integrity. We bring the same rigor to our information analytics solutions for researchers, healthcare professionals, institutions and funders.
Elsevier employs 8,100 people worldwide. We have been supporting the work of our research and health partners for more than 140 years. Growing from the roots in publishing, we offer knowledge and valuable analytics that help our customers make progress and drive social progress. Digital solutions such as ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath support strategic research management, research and development performance, clinical decision support and health education. Researchers and healthcare professionals rely on our 2500+ digitized journals, including Lancet i Cell, our 40,000 e-book titles; and our cult reference works, such as Gray’s anatomy. With the Elsevier Foundation and our external Advisory Committee on Inclusion and Diversity, we work in partnership with a variety of stakeholders to promote inclusion and diversity in science, research and health in developing countries and around the world.
Elsevier is part of RELX, a global supplier of information-based analytics and decision-making tools for professional and business customers. http: // www.
Contact with the media
Rhiannon Bugno, editor
Biological psychiatry: cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging
+1 254 522 9700