The Buzz about anabolic androgenic steroids: electrophysiological effects in excitable tissues

Neuroendocrinology. 2012;96(2):141-51. doi: 10.1159/000339123. Epub 2012 Sep 14.


Anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) comprise a large and growing class of synthetic androgens used clinically to promote tissue-building in individuals suffering from genetic disorders, injuries, and diseases. Despite these beneficial therapeutic applications, the predominant use of AAS is illicit: these steroids are self-administered to promote athletic performance and body image. Hand in hand with the desired anabolic actions of the AAS are untoward effects on the brain and behavior. While the signaling routes by which the AAS impose both beneficial and harmful actions may be quite diverse, key endpoints are likely to include ligand-gated and voltage-dependent ion channels that govern the activity of electrically excitable tissues. Here, we review the known effects of AAS on molecular targets that play critical roles in controlling electrical activity, with a specific focus on the effects of AAS on neurotransmission mediated by GABA(A) receptors in the central nervous system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism
  • Steroids / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Testosterone Congeners / pharmacology*


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Ion Channels
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Steroids
  • Testosterone Congeners