Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Animal models show that anabolic steroids flip the adolescent brain’s switch for aggression

27.02.2006


Hamsters with ’roid rage’ reveal that human teens may stay nasty for more than two years, with possible long-term brain impact



Anabolic steroids not only make teens more aggressive, but may keep them that way into young adulthood. The effect ultimately wears off but there may be other, lasting consequences for the developing brain. These findings, published in February’s Behavioral Neuroscience, also showed that aggression rose and fell in synch with neurotransmitter levels in the brain’s aggression control region. Behavioral Neuroscience is published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Neuroscientists are deeply concerned about rising adolescent abuse of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AASs), given the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s estimate that nearly half a million eighth- and 10th-grade students abuse AASs each year. Not only do steroids set kids up for heavier use of steroids and other drugs later in life, but long-term users can suffer from mood swings, hallucinations and paranoia; liver damage; high blood pressure; as well as increased risk of heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. Withdrawal often brings depression, and recent research suggests that some AASs may even be habit-forming.


Overseen by Richard Melloni Jr., PhD, of Northeastern University in Boston, the current study of 76 adolescent hamsters compared how individual hamsters behaved when another hamster was put into their cages. Normally mild-mannered hamsters still defend their turf, learning aggression during puberty by play-fighting, much like humans. Their roughhousing normally includes wrestling and nibbling – pretty tame stuff.

However, hamsters injected with commonly used steroids (suspended in oil) became extremely aggressive. Even after the drug was withdrawn, the newly vicious hamsters attacked, bit and chased the intruders. In fact, their aggressiveness measured ten times greater than that of control hamsters injected with oil only. Their full-blown aggression – clearly drug-induced -- lasted for nearly two weeks of withdrawal, the equivalent of half their adolescence. Eventually, the aggressiveness subsided; by three weeks of withdrawal, all the hamsters greeted intruders with normal, playful defensiveness.

Autopsy revealed that the outward aggressiveness correlated with inner changes in the brain. When the drugged hamsters were hostile hosts, a part of their brains called the anterior hypothalamus pumped out more of a neurotransmitter called vasopressin. By three weeks of withdrawal, vasopressin levels subsided in parallel with the aggressive behavior. The anterior hypothalamus regulates aggression and social behavior. Thus, vasopressin – already known to stimulate that area – appears to fuel the engine of aggression. And, says Melloni, "Steroids step on the gas for agression."

Thus, the neuroscientists conclude that the aggressiveness triggered by anabolic steroids, although reversible, may last long enough to create serious behavioral problems for adults. Because this part of the rodent and human nervous systems are similar, researchers generalize their findings to humans. As a result, Melloni and his colleagues speculate that anabolic steroids can dramatically shorten teenage fuses (not known for length under the best of circumstances) and make young people "pop off" for years, a danger to themselves and to others. Melloni and others researchers also are concerned that drug use during a critical window in brain development can change their wiring for good. He says, "Because the developing brain is more adaptable and pliable, steroids could change the trajectory if administered during development." His lab is releasing other new findings, as yet unpublished, that the serotonin system – implicated in depression – may never recover.

"If you hit the right areas of the brain at the right time, you make permanent changes," Melloni concludes from the converging evidence.

He hopes that adolescents don’t take the ultimate recovery of the vasopressin system to mean it’s OK to use the drugs. "It’s our hope that people considering the use of these drugs weigh the long-term health risks and the serious potential for aggression and violence. Muscle mass and medals aren’t worth the risk of hurting someone or landing in jail."

Finally, researchers such as Melloni hope these new insights can lead to treatments for aggressive behavior, with or without steroid abuse. "Linking aggression to fluctuations in vasopressin makes it an important neurotransmitter to target for pharmacotherapy," he says.

Pam Willenz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.apa.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers invent tiny, light-powered wires to modulate brain's electrical signals

21.02.2018 | Life Sciences

The “Holy Grail” of peptide chemistry: Making peptide active agents available orally

21.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Atomic structure of ultrasound material not what anyone expected

21.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>