Longitudinal assessment of serum free testosterone concentration predicts memory performance and cognitive status in elderly men

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Nov;87(11):5001-7. doi: 10.1210/jc.2002-020419.


Circulating testosterone (T) levels have behavioral and neurological effects in both human and nonhuman species. Both T concentrations and neuropsychological function decrease substantially with age in men. The purpose of this prospective, longitudinal study was to investigate the relationships between age-associated decreases in endogenous serum T and free T concentrations and declines in neuropsychological performance. Participants were volunteers from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, aged 50-91 yr at baseline T assessment. Four hundred seven men were followed for an average of 10 yr, with assessments of multiple cognitive domains and contemporaneous determination of serum total T, SHBG, and a free T index (FTI). We administered neuropsychological tests of verbal and visual memory, mental status, visuomotor scanning and attention, verbal knowledge/language, visuospatial ability, and depressive symptomatology. Higher FTI was associated with better scores on visual and verbal memory, visuospatial functioning, and visuomotor scanning and a reduced rate of longitudinal decline in visual memory. Men classified as hypogonadal had significantly lower scores on measures of memory and visuospatial performance and a faster rate of decline in visual memory. No relations between total T or the FTI and measures of verbal knowledge, mental status, or depressive symptoms were observed. These results suggest a possible beneficial relationship between circulating free T concentrations and specific domains of cognitive performance in older men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / analysis
  • Space Perception
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Vision, Ocular


  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Testosterone