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Research links adolescent steroid use to reduction in serotonin, altered signaling

BOSTON, Mass. " With more than one in ten boys admitting to using steroids, muscle- and strength-enhancing drug use among teenagers has caused considerable concern among parents and researchers over the past decade, but until now, the longer-term physiological and neurological effects of its use on the developing brain have not been fully examined. Now, new research from Northeastern University, published in the latest issue of the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, documents the link between adolescent anabolic steroid use and aggression and partly associates the increases in aggression with deficits in the brain"s serotonin system. The study will examine longer-term deficiencies of serotonin levels in the brain as a result of damage from steroid use, suggesting that a tendency toward aggression and impulsiveness may actually linger long after both the steroid use and the muscles and strength developed have waned.

With funding from the National Institute of Health, Northeastern University psychology professor Richard Melloni and graduate student Jill Grimes examined the phenomenon of long-term steroid use through a series of experiments on groups of adolescent male Syrian hamsters. During adolescence, this particular breed of hamster displays a natural form of territorial aggression, has similar neurological circuitry to human beings and similar aggression and dominance patterns during its adolescent years, making it a natural model for neurological and behavioral experiments.

During the first experiment, the researchers administered a "high dose" of anabolic steroids to adolescent hamsters over the course of a month, a period corresponding to five years repeated dosage in human adolescents. Those hamsters given steroids were, as other studies have shown, more aggressive than those not treated with steroids.

In the second stage of the experiment, the researchers administered fluoxtine (Prozac), commonly used in treating depr
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Contact: Christine Phelan
c.phelan@neu.edu
617-373-5455
Northeastern University
8-Aug-2002


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