Anabolic androgenic steroid affects social aggression and fear-related behaviors in male pair-housed rats

Horm Behav. 2005 Aug;48(2):216-24. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2005.02.010.


This study examines the effect of chronic administration of the anabolic androgenic steroid nandrolone decanoate (ND) on dominant and subordinate male rats in a pair-housed condition. Pair-housed rats were assessed for dominance status based on their behavior and alterations in body weights. Throughout the study the rats were allowed limited social interactions on a daily basis. At all other times, a Plexiglas divider kept the rats separated, allowing olfactory and visual contact between the cage mates while preventing significant physical contact. One week into the study all subjects were subcutaneously implanted with a pellet that continuously infused either ND (15 mg/kg/day) or placebo for 21 days. Following the pellet implant, behavioral tests including reassessment for dominance status, and a conditioned fear test were conducted over a period of approximately 2 months to investigate possible long-term changes. The main finding is that during the allowed social interactions, the dominant ND-pretreated rats spent more time on highly aggressive behaviors than the dominant placebo-treated rats. In addition, the probability for highly aggressive behaviors was maintained for the ND-treated rats throughout the study, whereas it was decreased for the placebo-treated rats. The ND-treated subordinate rats showed less fear in a potential threatening situation compared to placebo-treated controls. These findings support the relatively long-term behavioral changes that have been seen in humans after abuse of ND and other anabolic androgenic steroid compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / drug effects*
  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Psychological / drug effects
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Nandrolone / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Social Behavior
  • Steroids / pharmacology*


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Steroids
  • Nandrolone