Brain Research in Teenage Steroid Users

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Leslie Henderson and Ann Clark, professors at the Giesel School of Medicine in Dartmouth, are concerned that teenagers who use anabolic steroids may not be aware of the effects of steroids on the brain. Most people have heard about aggression as a possible side effect of steroid use. Stories of “roid rage” have appeared regularly in the news. But according to Henderson and Clark, teenage steroid users may face something more serious than the short-term prospect of steroid-induced aggression.

The researchers are concerned that teenagers may face risks from steroids not seen by adult steroid users. Looking at animal models of adolescent steroid administration, Henderson and Clark point to “critical periods” during adolescence when anabolic steroids can significantly (and permanently) affect the structure and function of the brain. Consequently, steroid-induced aggression and other psychological effects may be persist into adulthood and even middle age.

Steroids may cause a permanent change in brain function in various laboratory animals but does the same apply to humans? Henderson thinks so.

“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,” said Henderson.

Henderson is a neurobiology and biochemistry professor at the Geisel School of Medicine in Dartmouth. Clark is a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

Henderson’s laboratory conducts research into the effect of anabolic steroids on three major behavioral systems – reproduction, aggression (in males) and anxiety (in males and females). Her team examines the short-term and long-term effects of chronic steroid abuse. The lab team consists of Donna Porter, Joseph Oberlander and Marie Onakomaiya.

Henderson offers the following advice to teenagers considering the use of anabolic steroids.

“Teenagers need to recognize that these drugs actually do things to your brain, and your behavior comes from your brain,” according to Henderson.

Brain trauma

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Source: (August 7, 2012). Geisel professor concerned about steroid abuse by adolescents. Retrieved from