Effects of testosterone on behavior, depression, and cognitive function in older men with mild cognitive loss

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2004 Jan;59(1):75-8. doi: 10.1093/gerona/59.1.m75.


Background: The role of sex hormones in the prevention of cognitive decline is uncertain. Animal studies suggest mechanisms for sex hormones including testosterone to maintain optimal cognitive function. But, there are studies to suggest that endogenous testosterone levels are associated with aggression in men with cognitive impairment.

Methods: In this pilot study, 11 men (mean age 80 +/- 5 years, range 73-87 years) with early cognitive decline and bioavailable testosterone levels below 128 ng/dl (lower limit for adult normal range) were randomized to receive intramuscular testosterone (200 mg every 3 weeks) or placebo for 12 weeks. Outcome measures included sex hormones (testosterone, bioavailable testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin, estradiol, and estrone), Behave AD Questionnaire, Katz Activities of Daily Living, Geriatric Depression Scale, Digit Span, Clock Face Drawing, Clock Face Perception, Verbal Fluency, Trail-Making B, and International Prostate Symptom Score at baseline, 4 weeks, and 10 weeks.

Results: All men completed the study. Total and bioavailable testosterone, estrone, and estradiol levels increased in men receiving testosterone, but no changes were detected in men receiving placebo. No significant changes were found in behavior following testosterone supplementation, nor was there evidence of change in depression or activities of daily living. No discernable changes were found in any of the cognitive tests. Symptoms of prostate hyperplasia remained unchanged in the testosterone (6.6 + 5.8 to 5.2 + 3.6; p =.39) and placebo (8.8 + 6.4 to 6.4 + 3.8; p =.15) groups, and prostate-specific antigen levels did not change significantly.

Conclusion: No significant changes in behavior, function, depression, or cognitive performance occurred following 12 weeks of testosterone replacement in men with low testosterone levels and early-to-moderate cognitive impairment. This pilot work suggests that testosterone can be given to men with early cognitive impairment without significant concern about worsening aggressive or unwanted behaviors.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Behavior / drug effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*
  • Testosterone / therapeutic use*


  • Testosterone