The Effects of Testosterone on Brain function

The Effects of Testosterone on Brain function in Postmenopausal Women

At the US Endocrine Society Annual Meeting 2013, held in San Francisco, Prof Susan Davis presented results of our recent study looking at the effects of testosterone on brain function in postmenopausal women.

In this study 92 postmenopausal women, aged 55-65 years, were randomly allocated to treatment with a gel that contained testosterone or an identical placebo gel for 6 months. The women underwent comprehensive computer based testing for a range of brain functions before treatment, at 12 weeks and at 26 weeks. Our aim was to see if the women treated with testosterone performed differently on their testing as compared with women treated with placebo.

After 26 week of participation in the study the women who were allocated to use the testosterone gel showed significantly better verbal learning and memory than the women who received placebo treatment. Use of the testosterone gel was not associated with improvement for any other aspect of brain function tested, nor was it associated with increased psychological general wellbeing.

This is now the third study in which we have observed a specific effect of testosterone treatment on verbal learning and memory in postmenopausal women. In our first study we measured brain function using conventional paper based tests (1), and our second study was a small pilot study that also included brain imaging with MRI scans (2). This consistent finding across these studies provides compelling evidence for a significant beneficial effect of testosterone on memory in postmenopausal women.

1. Shah SM, Bell RJ, Savage G, Goldstat R, Papalia MA, Kulkarni J, et al. Testosterone aromatization and cognition in women: a randomized placebo controlled trial. Menopause. 2006;13(4):600-8.

2. Davison SL, Bell RJ, Gavrilescu M, Searle K, Maruff P, Gogos A, et al. Testosterone improves verbal learning and memory in postmenopausal women: Results from a pilot study. Maturitas. 2011;70(3):307-11.