Testosterone Levels and Healthy Brain Function
The relationship between testosterone and increased physical strength has been long known. But what about when it comes to building mental muscle? As men age it is no secret that memory and other cognitive issues develop, often mild, sometimes debilitating.
Can low testosterone levels also play a role in age-related cognitive difficulties?
Testosterone Levels and Cognitive Abilities
Scientists have speculated that testosterone does indeed play a role in healthy brain function in men. It does not seem to be mere coincidence that cognitive function and testosterone levels both decline with age. Medical researchers have observed that men suffering from conditions other than aging that result in low testosterone levels, also experience cognitive dysfunction.
A 2006 study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology indicated, “Chemical castration studies in men with prostate cancer suggest that low serum testosterone may be associated with cognitive dysfunction.
Low testosterone levels have also been observed in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and mild cognitive impairment.”
A report two years later in the Harvard Men’s Health Watch also surmised there was a link between low-testosterone and age related memory loss. That study went on to conclude that supplemental testosterone treatments showed promise in being used to prevent, or even reverse age-related cognitive difficulties, but concluded more research is required.
The Latest Research on Low Testosterone and Cognition
Picking up where these earlier studies left off, researchers led by Dr. Justin Carré, tried more recently to determine a definitive link between testosterone and normal, healthy brain function.
The researchers knew that testosterone is related to the “fight or flight” response in men, and triggers “aggressive” behavior in response to a threat.
Dr. Carré and his team decided to focus their research on this known effect of testosterone on the brain, and discover its mechanism of action on brain circuitry.
The researchers used 16 healthy young males in the study. First, all subjects had their testosterone levels lowered to below normal. Then they were split into two groups. In typical double-blind fashion, some were given testosterone supplements, some placebos.
The test subjects were then shown faces of angry, or aggressive men, while being subjected to brain imaging.
Upon analysis of the data, Carré was able to conclude, “We were able to show for the first time that increasing levels of testosterone [through testosterone therapy] can have a profound effect on brain circuits that are involved in threat-processing and human aggression…”
Through brain imaging, the researchers were able to gain a better understanding of which areas of the brain testosterone effects, and see how it “turns-on” the fight or flight behavior in males.
This study provided the first definitive indication that increased testosterone levels boost the “normal” brain into a state of hyper-alertness and sharp focus in response to a perceived threat. This has some interesting implications for testosterone therapy.
Can Testosterone Therapy Give You a Brain Boost?
While more research is needed, it stands to reason that testosterone replacement therapy for aging males, or other males suffering from low-T, can get a “brain boost” from testosterone therapy.
There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence and testimony from men undergoing testosterone replacement treatments that seem to indicate that this is the case. In my own practice I have had men on testosterone therapy report that they are sharper, and “think clearer” since being on testosterone replacement therapy.
I have also had patients that came in seeking hormone therapy specifically for “mental” and not physical reasons. I recall in particular one CEO who was close to 60, who found that he just could not focus on his business dealings as well as he could when he was younger. Not only was his business suffering, he felt he was in danger of losing control of his company!
After a year of testosterone therapy, he told me he feels he has his “edge back,” and he is literally “burying his competition!”