The anabolic androgenic steroid, nandrolone decanoate, increases the density of Fos-like immunoreactive neurons in limbic regions of guinea-pig brain

Eur J Neurosci. 2002 Feb;15(3):539-44. doi: 10.1046/j.0953-816x.2001.01877.x.


The increased abuse of anabolic androgenic steroids is a major concern because of physiological and psychological side-effects. In some individuals they induce dramatic behavioural changes such as increased aggression, anxiety and depression. The mechanisms behind these behavioural changes are still poorly understood. In order to obtain information on the brain regions affected by anabolic androgenic steroids, the distribution of neurons containing c-Fos, the protein product of the immediate early gene c-fos, and Fos-related antigens was studied following chronic treatment of guinea-pigs with a high dose of nandrolone decanoate (15 mg/kg i.m. daily for 14 days). The behaviour of the guinea-pigs was monitored for 1 h each day. Animals treated with nandrolone exhibited a significantly greater incidence of biting behaviour during the 14 day treatment period than vehicle-treated animals. A significantly greater density of c-Fos and Fos-related antigen-positive neurons was found in the central nucleus of the amygdala, and of Fos-related antigen-positive neurons in the frontal cortex, the shell of the nucleus accumbens and the supraoptic nucleus in nandrolone-treated animals than in vehicle controls. Therefore, nandrolone induced Fos in brain regions involved in stress, behavioural responses and reward. The increased Fos expression in these limbic brain regions is of particular interest in relation to the behavioural changes reported in humans who abuse anabolic androgenic steroids and the abuse potential of these drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / drug effects*
  • Aggression / physiology
  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anger / drug effects
  • Anger / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Limbic System / cytology
  • Limbic System / drug effects*
  • Limbic System / metabolism
  • Male
  • Nandrolone / pharmacology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation / physiology


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Nandrolone