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25 October 2004
Lack Of Testosterone Makes Men Forgetful
by George Atkinson

A study by scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) has found that word retention drops sharply after only two minutes among men undergoing testosterone deprivation therapy. In testosterone deprivation, the testicles are surgically removed or medications are given to block the production of male hormones, such as testosterone, that can promote prostate cancer growth. This common treatment for prostate cancer wipes out most male hormones found in the body.

Researchers Joseph Bussiere and Jeri Janowsky say the rapid drop in memory suggests the lack of testosterone affects the function of the hippocampus, a curved, elongated ridge in the brain that controls learning and memory.

Janowsky said that similar deficits - the ability to encode information initially but forget it quickly - were seen in individuals with well-known cognitive disorders. Testosterone-deprived men can "immediately get the information in, but then the hippocampus can't consolidate it and send it off for storage," Janowsky said. "When you look at their memory, they're perfectly normal when they're immediately asked to recall something, but they can't hold or save the information as well in order to recall it over a retention interval, over a period of time. They're faster at forgetting."

These results, Bussiere and Janowsky say, point to a negative effect of testosterone deprivation in the hippocampus, which is responsible for storing information from the first few seconds on. Both the prefrontal cortex and hippocampal memory systems commonly show declines with aging and are associated with problems in attention and memory. "This is an important first step in an effort to fully understand how prostate cancer therapies adversely affect memory and other brain functions, and to develop therapies that do not produce such undesirable effects," said co-investigator Tomasz Beer.




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