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Cognition is not modified by large but temporary changes in sex hormones in men.

Author(s): Young LA, Neiss MB, Samuels MH, Roselli CE, Janowsky JS

Affiliation(s): Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon 97239-3098, USA.

Publication date & source: 2010-01, J Clin Endocrinol Metab., 95(1):280-8. Epub 2009 Oct 30.

Publication type: Randomized Controlled Trial; Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

CONTEXT: Little is known about the role of testosterone and estradiol on cognition in healthy older men. OBJECTIVE: The cognitive effects of increasing or lowering testosterone or estradiol were examined. DESIGN: Cognition was assessed before and after 6 wk of double-blind placebo-controlled hormone modification. SETTING: The study was conducted at an academic medical center. PARTICIPANTS: Healthy older (ages 60-80 yr) and younger men (ages 25-35 yr) were recruited from the community. INTERVENTION: Men were randomized to one of four treatments: 1) maintain testosterone and estradiol at eugonadal levels for young men (GnRH agonist + testosterone gel); 2) block testosterone's conversion to estradiol (GnRH agonist + testosterone gel + aromatase inhibitor); 3) induce hypogonadism (GnRH agonist alone); and 4) all placebo. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Measures of executive function, memory, and spatial cognition were obtained before and after treatment. Hormone levels were obtained 10 times over the course of the study. RESULTS: Counter to expectations, hormone treatment did not affect cognition (P > 0.10). Free testosterone was positively related to spatial cognition in older men after treatment and controlling for age and estradiol level or exclusion of the hypogonadal men (P = 0.02). Estradiol was negatively associated with working memory controlling for the same variables (P = 0.01). Blinding to treatment assignment was maintained, with the exception of the hypogonadal group. CONCLUSIONS: A significant change in sex hormone status, including complete hypogonadism, does not modify cognition in men. These findings, along with studies that show a risk for neurodegenerative disease in those with low testosterone, suggest that sex hormone status may be important for neuroprotection in aging but not modulation of normal day-to-day cognitive function.

Page last updated: 2010-10-05

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