Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The scientific side of steroid use and abuse

Date:
August 6, 2012
Source:
Dartmouth College
Summary:
Scientists are investigating the cellular basis for behavioral changes seen with the abuse of anabolic androgenic steroids. New research looks at three major behavioral systems typically associated with steroid abuse -- reproduction, aggression in males, and anxiety in both sexes. Studies have shown there are "critical periods" -- periods of time during adolescence when exposure to steroids can impose permanent changes in both brain organization and function.

Postdoctoral Research Associate Joseph Oberlander and Professor Leslie Henderson examine patterns of electrical activity (action potentials) recorded from brains of mice exposed to anabolic androgenic steroids. Chronic steroid exposure changes patterns of activity in regions of the brain that are critical for the expression of anxiety.
Credit: Eli Burak

Leslie Henderson is concerned about steroid abuse, not necessarily by sports luminaries like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, but rather by adolescents.

Related Articles


"There is this disconnect among young people that somehow your emotions, your thought processes -- things that have to do with your brain -- are separate and different from what steroids may be doing to your body -- your muscles, your heart, or your liver, or anything like that," says Henderson, a professor of physiology and neurobiology, and of biochemistry at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. She is also the senior associate dean for faculty affairs at Geisel.

Henderson reports that websites targeting steroid users often acknowledge that steroids can affect your body -- that's why they are taken -- or they can make you aggressive. However, they do not say anything about changing the way your brain works. "Teenagers need to recognize that these drugs actually do things to your brain, and your behavior comes from your brain," she says.

The drugs of concern are anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), which are synthetic derivatives of testosterone, originally designed to provide enhanced anabolic (tissue-building) potency with negligible androgenic (masculinizing) effects, according to Henderson and her long-time Dartmouth collaborator Ann Clark, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

"Although originally developed for clinical use, AAS administration is now predominantly one of abuse, and the medical benefits of low doses of AAS stand in sharp contrast to the potential health risks associated with the excessive doses self-administered by athletes," they write in a 2003 paper.

In addition to the danger implicit in high dosages is the range of uncontrolled variability in the composition of these illicit synthetics. "Because of their chemical modifications they can also directly interact with neurotransmitter receptors in the brain to change the way they function," says Henderson. These changes are reflected in manifestations of anxiety, as seen in Henderson's laboratory experiments.

However, little regard is given to these potential dangers when the primary objective is a competitive edge in athletic pursuits. Compounding these caveats are the implications of abuse at an early age.

Studies have shown there are "critical periods" -- periods of time during adolescence when exposure to steroids can impose permanent changes in both brain organization and function, leading to physiological and psychiatric effects that may still be prevalent even in middle age. The age at which you take them also affects their persistence. From studies using rodents as an animal model, other investigators have also found that, "if you take steroids as an adolescent, those effects are much longer lasting in terms of their negative effects on behavior, especially aggression, than if you take them as an adult," Henderson comments.

In her laboratory work, Henderson has looked at three major behavioral systems typically associated with steroid abuse -- reproduction, aggression in males, and anxiety in both sexes.

"We did a lot of work looking at the neural control of reproduction and regions of the brain that were affected by chronic steroid abuse, as well as the transfer centers in the brain that were affected acutely by exposure to these steroids," says Henderson. "More recently, we've also looked at the effects of these steroids on anxiety, elucidating a biochemical pathway that is integral to this."

When Henderson says "we" in reference to her research, she means the "royal we." As a senior associate dean in the medical school, her hours at the bench are expectedly limited. "However, our lab is still active. In fact the past couple years we've had probably our best and most high-profile publications," says Henderson. "Right now the lab has a senior postdoc, a graduate student, and my lab manager, and they are doing all the heavy lifting." Donna Porter is the laboratory manager working with Postdoctoral Associate Joseph Oberlander and graduate student Marie Onakomaiya.

As if she were not busy enough, Henderson is committed to active outreach -- bringing science to the public. In November, she is scheduled to participate in a local "Science Café." These are interactive eventsthat take place in casual settings such as pubs and coffeehouses, are open to everyone, and feature an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic.

"It is just something that for me as a scientist I think is incredibly important," Henderson asserts. "We take a lot of taxpayer dollars, and if we can't go out and make what we're doing relevant to the people that are supporting us, we shouldn't be doing what we are doing."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Dartmouth College. The original article was written by Joseph Blumberg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Dartmouth College. "The scientific side of steroid use and abuse." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120806161915.htm>.
Dartmouth College. (2012, August 6). The scientific side of steroid use and abuse. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120806161915.htm
Dartmouth College. "The scientific side of steroid use and abuse." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120806161915.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

BuzzFeed (Jan. 28, 2015) — "No, I&apos;m not mad. Why, are you mad?" Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) — Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Rooftop Comedy (Jan. 26, 2015) — A man in Texas saved every penny he found for 65 years, and this week he finally cashed them in. Bank tellers at Prosperity Bank in Slaton, Texas were shocked when Ira Keys arrived at their bank with over 500 pounds of loose pennies stored in coffee cans. After more than an hour of sorting and counting, it turned out the 81 year-old was in possession of 81,600 pennies, or $816. And he&apos;s got more at home! Video provided by Rooftop Comedy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) — More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins