Long-term anabolic androgenic steroid use is associated with deviant brain aging / Astrid Bjørnebekk, Tobias Kaufmann, Lisa E. Hauger, Sandra Klonteig, Ingunn R. Hullstein, Lars T. Westlye. - (Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging (2021), 13 January; p. 1-11)
- DOI: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2021.01.001
High-dose long-term use of anabolic–androgenic steroids (AASs) may cause a range of adverse effects, including brain and cognitive abnormalities. We performed age prediction based on brain scans to test whether prolonged AAS use is associated with accentuated brain aging.
T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (3D MPRAGE [magnetization-prepared rapid acquisition gradient-echo]) scans were obtained from male weightlifters with a history of prolonged AAS use (n = 130) or no AAS use (n = 99). We trained machine learning models on combinations of regional brain volumes, cortical thickness, and surface area in an independent training set of 1838 healthy male subjects (18–92 years of age) and predicted brain age for each participant in our study. Including cross-sectional and longitudinal (mean interval = 3.5 years, n = 76) magnetic resonance imaging data, we used linear mixed-effects models to compare the gap between chronological age and predicted brain age (the brain age gap [BAG]) for the two groups and tested for group differences in the rate of change in BAG. We tested for associations between apparent brain aging and AAS use duration, pattern of administration, and dependence.
AAS users had higher BAG compared with weightlifting control subjects, which was associated with dependency and longer history of use. Group differences in BAG could not be explained by other substance use, general cognitive abilities, or depression. While longitudinal analysis revealed no evidence of increased brain aging in the overall AAS group, accelerated brain aging was seen with longer AAS exposure.
The findings suggest that long-term high-dose AAS use may have adverse effects on brain aging, potentially linked to dependency and exaggerated use of AASs.