Administration of an anabolic steroid during the adolescent phase changes the behavior, cardiac autonomic balance and fluid intake in male adult rats

Physiol Behav. 2014 Mar 14:126:15-24. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.12.006. Epub 2013 Dec 29.


Few data are available on adolescent users because most behavioral studies on anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) abuse have been performed in adults. Studies evaluating the impact of long-term effects of AAS abuse on the prepubertal phase are even more uncommon. Accordingly, this study was developed to test the hypothesis that changes induced by the use of AAS during the adolescent phase may be noted in the adult phase even when the AAS treatment cycle is discontinued. Therefore, not only behavioral changes but also possible autonomic and electrolyte disorders were evaluated. For this purpose, we used male prepubertal, 26-day-old (P26) Wistar rats that were treated with vehicle (control, n=10) or testosterone propionate (TP; 5 mg/kg intramuscular (IM) injection, AAS, n=10) five times per week for 5 weeks, totaling 25 applications during the treatment. Aggression tests were performed at the end of the cycle (P54-56), whereas open-field tests (OFTs), elevated plus maze (EPM) behavioral tests and measurements of heart rate variability (HRV), fluid intake and pathology were conducted in the adult phase (P87-92). The AAS group showed greater aggressiveness in the pubertal phase and higher levels of horizontal and vertical exploration and anxiety-related behavior in the adult phase than the control group (P<0.05). HRV tests showed an increase in sympathetic autonomic modulation, and hydroelectrolytic assessment showed lower basal intake levels of hypertonic saline than the control group (P<0.05), without statistically significant changes in the basal intake of water. These data together suggest that the use of AAS during the prepubertal phase induces behavioral, autonomic and hydroelectrolytic changes that manifest in the adult phase even when treatment is discontinued in late adolescence in rats.

Keywords: Aggressiveness; Anabolic–androgenic steroids; Anxiety; Rats; Sympathetic modulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aggression / drug effects
  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Autonomic Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Body Weight
  • Drinking / drug effects
  • Eating / drug effects*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Exploratory Behavior / drug effects
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Testosterone Propionate / pharmacology*


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Sodium
  • Testosterone Propionate