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Testosterone Spray May Protect Memory in Women
June 9, 2011 (Boston, Massachusetts) — Testosterone might protect the
memory of healthy aging women, according to a small open-label pilot
study reported here at ENDO 2011: The Endocrine Society 93rd Annual
Nine postmenopausal women who used a transdermal testosterone spray
for about 6 months saw improvements over baseline in verbal learning and
memory. A group of matched untreated women saw no change from baseline
in their test results.
"The results of our study offer a potential therapy, where none
currently exists, to slow cognitive decline in women," said lead
investigator Sonia Louise Davison, MD, PhD, from the Women's Health
Research Program at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
"Testosterone should be further studied in randomized
placebo-controlled trials to determine whether it improves cognitive
performance in postmenopausal women," she added.
Dementia Predictions "Worrying"
At a press briefing, Dr. Davison said predictions of the number of
people who will develop dementia in the coming years are "pretty
worrying." Dementia is set to become an "enormous" and costly public
health problem. Women develop dementia at double the rate of men; lower
testosterone levels in women might play a role in this sex difference.
Dr. Davison's team explored the effects of testosterone on cognitive
performance in 9 nondepressed cognitively normal women. The women were
between 47 and 60 years of age (mean age, 55 years) and were receiving
stable-dose hormone replacement therapy that was not administered
orally. They applied the testosterone spray to the abdomen once daily
for 26 weeks. A control group of 30 women provided normative data for
At baseline and 26 weeks, all of study subjects took a computerized
cognitive test battery, called CogState, which is capable of detecting
small changes in cognitive performance, Dr. Davison explained.
There were no differences between the 2 groups in any parameter at baseline.
After 26 weeks, "significant improvements" from baseline were
observed in learning (verbal and visual) and memory in the testosterone
group (P < .05 for both). In contrast, there were no significant differences between baseline and 26 weeks in the control group.
Support for the Neuroprotective Effects of Testosterone
Dr. Davison called these results "exciting," and said they provide
more evidence that testosterone exerts neuroprotective effects.
In men, age-related declines in testosterone increase the risk for
Alzheimer's disease, she said. It's been shown that healthy older men
and men with mild cognitive impairment and early dementia have
demonstrated improvements in cognitive performance, including memory,
after testosterone treatment.
"There obviously is some important link between testosterone and cognition that needs to be explored further," Dr. Davison said.
The testosterone spray used in the study is "novel," she noted, "in
that it uses a propellant of sunscreen to introduce the testosterone
into the skin."
The study was supported by the National
Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the Royal Australasian
College of Physicians Research and Education Foundation (Vincent
Fairfax Family Foundation fellowship), and FemPharm in Australia, which
makes the testosterone spray for women. Dr. Davison is a principal
investigator for Acrux Australia and Warner Chilcott.
ENDO 2011: The Endocrine Society 93rd Annual Meeting: Abstract P1-314. Presented June 4, 2011.