Testosterone and memory
Testosterone and brain function link
It is already known that testosterone plays an important role in cardiovascular health as well as its function as the male sex hormone. Now Australian researchers are testing the links between testosterone and brain function in women.
Researchers believe it could unlock the secrets of treating dementia and even improve the libido of people on anti-depressants.
But despite this, they say Australian pharmaceutical regulators have set the bar too high for testosterone therapy.
Professor Susan Davis from Monash University said the researchers were undertaking studies to look at the role of testosterone on memory and concentration. The study was conducted on women aged 55 to 70 years.
Professor Davis said testosterone has an effect on the brain for many known reasons.
“Women make oestrogen from testosterone so oestrogen in the brain is produced from testosterone as well as from circulating blood levels. Secondly testosterone acts on blood vessels and is what we call a vasodilator so it increases blood flow to tissues including possibly the brain,” she said.
“And thirdly we know that one factor in the development and progression of dementia is the deposition of a protein called amyloid within the brain. And there is evidence to suggest that testosterone may reduce the amount of amyloid protein that is deposited in the brain.”
According to Professor Davis, as people live longer and healthier, the “goal posts” have been moved and women want to be healthier for longer.
“And there is no question if we can delay the onset of memory decline, even by a couple of years, that will have a huge socioeconomic impact,” she said.
The drug testosterone is not broadly available in Australia which has caused some implications in the study.
“There are two products available for women in Australia, neither of which have Therapeutic Goods Administration approval. So, the real block has been this terror engendered from the findings from the Women’s Health Initiative study back in 2002 that hormones are bad for women,” Professor Davis said.
However, the TGA is not alone in its view as authorities in other countries have also resisted testosterone therapies for women.
“America has changed its direction somewhat. They said yes we agree testosterone works, but we just want more safety data; and I don’t have a problem with that,” Professor Davis said.
“The TGA on the other hand has said we don’t believe this works. You need to give us data that shows how it compares to the best approved current standard treatment for women with low sexual function.”
The problem, according to Professor Davis, is that there is no standard treatment approved for low sexual function.
Testosterone May Improve Mental Function
ScienceDaily (Jan. 14, 2008) — When we think about the powers of testosterone, we usually do not consider mental processes. However, research suggests that testosterone levels may affect men’s cognitive performance, reports the January 2008 issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
All the body’s attributes change with age, and mental functions are no exception. Memory is the most fragile mental function. With age, new learning is slower, new information is processed less carefully, and details often slip. These changes give rise to the “senior moment” in healthy elders and to cognitive impairment and dementia in others.
Testosterone levels decline with age, just when memory begins to slow. Might falling hormone levels account for some of the problem? Perhaps, says Harvard Men’s Health Watch. The data are far from conclusive, but studies have found some connections. For instance, higher testosterone levels in midlife have been linked to better preservation of tissue in some parts of the brain. And in older men, higher testosterone levels have been associated with better performance on cognitive tests.
If higher testosterone levels are associated with better mental function, do treatments that reduce testosterone lead to cognitive decline? Three studies linked impaired performance on cognitive tests with androgen deprivation therapy, which is sometimes used in treating prostate cancer. However, the effects were modest and certainly should not deter men from receiving this treatment if needed.
This research also raises the question of whether testosterone therapy might improve mental function in healthy older men, or even in those with cognitive impairment. Only a few small, short-term studies have examined this, and some have reported subtle improvements on cognitive tests. However, high testosterone levels may have harmful effects as well. Harvard Men’s Health Watch suggests that until more research findings are available, men should not use testosterone or any other androgen to improve mental function.