The scientific side of steroid use and abuse
Postdoctoral research associate Joseph Oberlander and professor Leslie Henderson examine patterns of electrical activity (action potentials) recorded from brains of mice exposed to anabolic androgenic steroids. Chronic steroid exposure changes patterns of activity in regions of the brain that are critical for the expression of anxiety. Credit: Eli Burak
Leslie Henderson investigates the cellular basis for behavioral changes seen with the abuse of anabolic androgenic steroids. In her laboratory work, Henderson has looked at three major behavioral systems typically associated with steroid abuse -- reproduction, aggression in males, and anxiety in both sexes. Studies have shown there are "critical periods" -- periods of time during adolescence when exposure to steroids can impose permanent changes in both brain organization and function.
Leslie Henderson is concerned about steroid abuse, not necessarily by sports luminaries like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, but rather by adolescents.
"There is this disconnect among young people that somehow your emotions, your thought processesthings that have to do with your brainare separate and different from what steroids may be doing to your bodyyour muscles, your heart, or your liver, or anything like that," says Henderson, a professor of physiology and neurobiology, and of biochemistry at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. She is also the senior associate dean for faculty affairs at Geisel.
Henderson reports that websites targeting steroid users often acknowledge that steroids can affect your bodythat's why they are takenor they can make you aggressive. However, they do not say anything about changing the way your brain works. "Teenagers need to recognize that these drugs actually do things to your brain, and your behavior comes from your brain," she says.
The drugs of concern are anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), which are synthetic derivatives of testosterone, originally designed to provide enhanced anabolic (tissue-building) potency with negligible androgenic (masculinizing) effects, according to Henderson and her long-time Dartmouth collaborator Ann Clark, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
"Although originally developed for clinical use, AAS administration is now predominantly one of abuse, and the medical benefits of low doses of AAS stand in sharp contrast to the potential health risks associated with the excessive doses self-administered by athletes," they write in a 2003 paper.
In addition to the danger implicit in high dosages is the range of uncontrolled variability in the composition of these illicit synthetics. "Because of their chemical modifications they can also directly interact with neurotransmitter receptors in the brain to change the way they function," says Henderson. These changes are reflected in manifestations of anxiety, as seen in Henderson's laboratory experiments.
However, little regard is given to these potential dangers when the primary objective is a competitive edge in athletic pursuits. Compounding these caveats are the implications of abuse at an early age.
Studies have shown there are "critical periods"periods of time during adolescence when exposure to steroids can impose permanent changes in both brain organization and function, leading to physiological and psychiatric effects that may still be prevalent even in middle age. The age at which you take them also affects their persistence. From studies using rodents as an animal model, other investigators have also found that, "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," Henderson comments.
In her laboratory work, Henderson has looked at three major behavioral systems typically associated with steroid abusereproduction, aggression in males, and anxiety in both sexes.
"We did a lot of work looking at the neural control of reproduction and regions of the brain that were affected by chronic steroid abuse, as well as the transfer centers in the brain that were affected acutely by exposure to these steroids," says Henderson. "More recently, we've also looked at the effects of these steroids on anxiety, elucidating a biochemical pathway that is integral to this."
When Henderson says "we" in reference to her research, she means the "royal we." As a senior associate dean in the medical school, her hours at the bench are expectedly limited. "However, our lab is still active. In fact the past couple years we've had probably our best and most high-profile publications," says Henderson. "Right now the lab has a senior postdoc, a graduate student, and my lab manager, and they are doing all the heavy lifting." Donna Porter is the laboratory manager working with Postdoctoral Associate Joseph Oberlander and graduate student Marie Onakomaiya.
As if she were not busy enough, Henderson is committed to active outreachbringing science to the public. In November, she is scheduled to participate in a local "Science Café." These are interactive events that take place in casual settings such as pubs and coffeehouses, are open to everyone, and feature an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic.
"It is just something that for me as a scientist I think is incredibly important," Henderson asserts. "We take a lot of taxpayer dollars, and if we can't go out and make what we're doing relevant to the people that are supporting us, we shouldn't be doing what we are doing."
Provided by Dartmouth College
- Study finds little cognitive benefit from soy supplements for older women Jun 04, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Bodybuilding with steroids damages kidneys Oct 29, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Pressure to look more muscular may lead some men to consider steroids Jun 03, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Probing Question: Can steroids enhance athletic performance? Jul 07, 2006 | not rated yet | 0
- Long-term anabolic steroid use may weaken heart more than previously thought Apr 27, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
The Durability of Bone: Long Falls
1 hour ago I am doing a paper on the physics in Valve's Portal and got interested in the "Long Fall Boots" that prevent any damage no matter how far you fall. I...
Is energy convertible to matter?
2 hours ago Can we convert energy to matter?
Rotating electron as a dipole is this right?
5 hours ago An electron as shown by the Stern Gerlach experiment behaves like a dipole (albeit only in one of two states). I have been trying to figure out how...
Dipole term in multipole expansion
9 hours ago Hi. I'm having some difficult in understanding something about the dipole term in a multipole expansion. Griffiths writes the expansion as a sum of...
Bubbles in a Pre-Boiling/Boiling pot of water
10 hours ago How is it that bubbles form on the bottom of a surface of a pot of boiling water? I think that there is probably an elementary answer to this...
Assumptions of Griffith's fracture theory
20 hours ago Any experts on Griffith's fracture theory? I am studying the subject and I am having hard time finding out if the theory is valid for all possible...
- More from Physics Forums - Classical Physics
More news stories
In order to avoid exposing vulnerable groups such as children and young adults to alcohol advertising, industry groups have developed their own self-regulation guidelines. However, these guidelines have been criticized for ...
Addiction May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
In order to avoid harms associated with alcohol consumption, in 2009 the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism issued guidelines that define low-risk drinking. These guidelines differ for men and women: no more ...
Addiction May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0 |
Treatment for alcohol use disorders works best if the patient actively understands and incorporates the interventions provided in the clinic. Multiple factors can influence both the type and degree of neurocognitive abnormalities ...
Addiction May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0 |
Researchers from Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of South Florida have evaluated how Florida health care and social service agencies distribute "Libres para Siempre", a Spanish smoking relapse prevention booklet ...
Addiction May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Declines in smoking among youths were observed from the late 1990s. "However, limited information exists on trends in smokeless ...
Addiction May 14, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Native peoples in regions where cameras are uncommon sometimes react with caution when their picture is taken. The fear that something must have been stolen from them to create the photo ...
11 hours ago | 4.2 / 5 (5) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Despite spending billions of dollars on research and development, drug companies have been unable to come up with effective treatments for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Now, A. ...
9 hours ago | 4.9 / 5 (9) | 0 |
An experimental sleeping pill from US drug company Merck is effective at helping people fall and stay asleep, according to reviewers at the US Food and Drug Administration, which could soon approve the new drug.
5 hours ago | 3 / 5 (2) | 0
Activating an enzyme known to play a role in the anti-aging benefits of calorie restriction delays the loss of brain cells and preserves cognitive function in mice, according to a study published in the May ...
6 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Australian scientists have charted the path of insulin action in cells in precise detail like never before. This provides a comprehensive blueprint for understanding what goes wrong in diabetes.
11 hours ago | 4.4 / 5 (5) | 0 |
A drug commonly used to treat depression and anxiety may improve a stress-related heart condition in people with stable coronary heart disease, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.
7 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |