Early testosterone modulated sex differences in behavioral outcome following neonatal hypoxia ischemia in rats

Int J Dev Neurosci. 2011 Jun;29(4):381-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2011.03.005. Epub 2011 Apr 5.


Hypoxia ischemia (HI; reduced blood oxygenation and/or flow to the brain) represents one of the most common injuries for both term and preterm/very low birth weight (VLBW) infants. These children experience elevated incidence of cognitive and/or sensory processing disabilities, including language based learning disabilities. Clinical data also indicate more substantial long-term deficits for HI injured male babies as compared to HI injured females. Previously, we reported significant deficits in rapid auditory processing and spatial learning in male rats with postnatal day 1 (P1), P7, or P10 HI injury. We also showed sex differences in HI injured animals, with more severe deficits in males as compared to females. Given these findings, combined with extant clinical data, the current study sought to assess a putative role for perinatal testosterone in modulating behavioral outcome following early hypoxic-ischemic injury in rats. Male, female, and testosterone-propionate (TP) treated females were subjected to P7 HI or sham surgery, and subsequently (P30+) underwent a battery of auditory testing and water maze assessment. Results confirm previous reports of sex differences following HI, and add new findings of significantly worse performance in TP-treated HI females compared to vehicle treated HI females. Post mortem anatomic analyses showed consistent effects, with significant brain weight decreases seen in HI male and TP-treated HI females but not female HI or sham groups. Further neuromorphometric analysis of brain structures showed that HI male animals exhibited increased pathology relative to HI females as reflected in ventricular enlargement. Findings suggest that neonatal testosterone may act to enhance the deleterious consequences of early HI brain injury, as measured by both neuropathology and behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology
  • Female
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain / drug therapy*
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*
  • Testosterone / therapeutic use*


  • Testosterone