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 Even after the drug was withdrawn, the newly vicious hamsters attacked, bit and chased the intruders.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 The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

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: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>