Testosterone improves verbal learning

Testosterone improves verbal learning and memory in postmenopausal women: Results from a pilot study

This study lead by Dr Sonia Davison of the Women's Health Research Program explored the effects of testosterone on brain function in early postmenopausal women.

Nine women on non-oral menopausal hormone replacement therapy received a novel testosterone spray, applied to the abdomen daily for 6 months. The dose of the spray was designed to restore testosterone levels to those of early reproductive aged women. Testosterone levels decline with age in women and reach a low at around the age of 65 years. This is also the age at which dementia incidence begins to increase, hence our interest in seeing whether restoring testosterone levels to those typical of younger women may have a beneficial effect on cognition. A variety of cognitive, or brain function tests were administered before the treatment, and after 6 months, using a sensitive computerised cognitive test, ‘CogState'. CogState uses a series of different games or tasks each time it is used, hence the tests cannot be remembered or learned, which is a common criticism of other methods of testing cognition.

A control group of 30 women received no treatment but had CogState testing at identical time points. With testosterone treatment, an improvement was seen in verbal learning and memory, with more words recalled on a shopping list. In the control group of women, who did not receive treatment, no improvements were seen in any area of cognitive testing. This exciting exploratory finding is currently being tested in randomised placebo controlled studies in 2 groups of postmenopausal women by members of the Women's Health Research Program.

1.Davison SL, Bell RJ, Gavrilescu M, Searle K, Maruff P, Gogos A,Rossell SL, Adams J, Egan EF, Davis SR. Maturitas. 2011 Nov;70(3):307-11.