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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 Jul 1;152:47-56. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.04.023. Epub 2015 May 7.

Brain and cognition abnormalities in long-term anabolic-androgenic steroid users.

Author information

1
McLean Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, The Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill St., Belmont, MA 02478, USA. Electronic address: kaufman@mclean.harvard.edu.
2
McLean Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, The Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill St., Belmont, MA 02478, USA.
3
Biological Psychiatry Laboratory, McLean Hospital, The Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill St., Belmont, MA 02478, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) use is associated with psychiatric symptoms including increased aggression as well as with cognitive dysfunction. The brain effects of long-term AAS use have not been assessed in humans.

METHODS:

This multimodal magnetic resonance imaging study of the brain compared 10 male weightlifters reporting long-term AAS use with 10 age-matched weightlifters reporting no AAS exposure. Participants were administered visuospatial memory tests and underwent neuroimaging. Brain volumetric analyses were performed; resting-state fMRI functional connectivity (rsFC) was evaluated using a region-of-interest analysis focused on the amygdala; and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) metabolites were quantified by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).

RESULTS:

AAS users had larger right amygdala volumes than nonusers (P=0.002) and reduced rsFC between right amygdala and frontal, striatal, limbic, hippocampal, and visual cortical areas. Left amygdala volumes were slightly larger in AAS users (P=0.061) but few group differences were detected in left amygdala rsFC. AAS users also had lower dACC scyllo-inositol levels (P=0.004) and higher glutamine/glutamate ratios (P=0.028), possibly reflecting increased glutamate turnover. On a visuospatial cognitive task, AAS users performed more poorly than nonusers, with the difference approaching significance (P=0.053).

CONCLUSIONS:

Long-term AAS use is associated with right amygdala enlargement and reduced right amygdala rsFC with brain areas involved in cognitive control and spatial memory, which could contribute to the psychiatric effects and cognitive dysfunction associated with AAS use. The MRS abnormalities we detected could reflect enhanced glutamate turnover and increased vulnerability to neurotoxic or neurodegenerative processes, which could contribute to AAS-associated cognitive dysfunction.

KEYWORDS:

Amygdala; Anabolic-androgenic steroids; Glutamate; Magnetic resonance imaging; Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Scyllo-inositol

PMID:
25986964
PMCID:
PMC4458166
DOI:
10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.04.023
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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