The influence of age of onset and acute anabolic steroid exposure on cognitive performance, impulsivity, and aggression in men

The influence of age of onset and acute anabolic steroid exposure on cognitive performance, impulsivity, and aggression in men / Tom Hildebrandt, James W. Langenbucher, Adrianne Flores, Seth Harty, Heather A. Berlin. - (Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 28 (2014) 4 (December); 1096-1104)

  • PMID: 24841181
  • PMCID: PMC4237679
  • DOI: 10.1037/a0036482

Erratum included:

  • Psychol Addict Behav. 2014 Dec;28(4):1104. Berlin, Heather [corrected to Berlin, Heather A]


A growing translational literature suggests that adolescent exposure to anabolic-androgenic steroids (AASs) leads to increased aggression and impulsivity. However, little is known about the cognitive effects of AASs among AAS users or the differences between adolescent- and adult-onset users. This study provides a test of the effects of acute naturalistic AAS use and age of onset (adolescent vs. adult) on measures of inhibitory control, planning and attention, and decision making. Seventy-one active adult male AAS users completed self-report measures of impulsivity and aggression, and a subsample (11 adolescent onset vs. 11 adult onset) matched on current age were administered 4 computerized tests from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) (Cambridge Cognition, 2002) and the Iowa Gambling Task (Stanton, Liening, & Schultheiss, 2011). Multiple regression analyses and a series of 2 (adolescent vs. adult) × 2 (on-cycle vs. off-cycle) analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were used to examine the differential effects of age of onset and acute drug use on cognition and behavior. Regression analyses revealed larger on-cycle effects for adolescent users than adult users. Subsample analyses indicated that on-cycle users performed less well on cognitive measures of inhibitory control and attention, but not on tests of planning or decision making. Adolescent onset was associated with greater impulsivity and more acute sensitivity to AAS effects on attention. These preliminary findings suggest the possibility that acute AAS use is associated with some differences in inhibitory control and impulsivity and to a lesser degree, aggression. These effects may be more potent for those initiating AAS use in adolescence.

Original document


Research / Study
19 May 2014
Berlin, Heather A.
Flores, Adrianne
Harty, Seth
Hildebrandt, Tom
Langenbucher, James W.
United States of America
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Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS)
Rutgers University
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
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S1. Anabolic Agents
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Health effects
Mental disorders
Violent behavior
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Scientific article
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Date generated
15 October 2020
Date of last modification
2 December 2021
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