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Psychol Addict Behav. 2014 Dec;28(4):1096-104. doi: 10.1037/a0036482. Epub 2014 May 19.

The influence of age of onset and acute anabolic steroid exposure on cognitive performance, impulsivity, and aggression in men.

Author information

  • 1Eating and Weight Disorders Program.
  • 2Center of Alcohol Studies, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
  • 3Department of Psychiatry.

Erratum in

  • Psychol Addict Behav. 2014 Dec;28(4):1104. Berlin, Heather [corrected to Berlin, Heather A].


The name of author Heather Berlin omitted a middle initial in the byline and author note and should appear as Heather A. Berlin.] A growing translational literature suggests that adolescent exposure to anabolic-androgenic steroids (AASs) leads to increased aggression and impulsivity. However, little is known about the cognitive effects of AASs among AAS users or the differences between adolescent- and adult-onset users. This study provides a test of the effects of acute naturalistic AAS use and age of onset (adolescent vs. adult) on measures of inhibitory control, planning and attention, and decision making. Seventy-one active adult male AAS users completed self-report measures of impulsivity and aggression, and a subsample (11 adolescent onset vs. 11 adult onset) matched on current age were administered 4 computerized tests from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) (Cambridge Cognition, 2002) and the Iowa Gambling Task (Stanton, Liening, & Schultheiss, 2011). Multiple regression analyses and a series of 2 (adolescent vs. adult) × 2 (on-cycle vs. off-cycle) analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were used to examine the differential effects of age of onset and acute drug use on cognition and behavior. Regression analyses revealed larger on-cycle effects for adolescent users than adult users. Subsample analyses indicated that on-cycle users performed less well on cognitive measures of inhibitory control and attention, but not on tests of planning or decision making. Adolescent onset was associated with greater impulsivity and more acute sensitivity to AAS effects on attention. These preliminary findings suggest the possibility that acute AAS use is associated with some differences in inhibitory control and impulsivity and to a lesser degree, aggression. These effects may be more potent for those initiating AAS use in adolescence.

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