In the medical field, anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS), or more commonly known as anabolic steroids, is useful in treating conditions resulting from steroid hormone deficiency, such as delayed puberty, as well as diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer and AIDS. But in sports, the drug is widely used to enhance performance and/or improve physical appearance.
Over the last 20 years, a string of reports has indicated that a growing number of non-athletes are also abusing anabolic steroids to beef up their bodies. What these people might be missing is that prolonged steroid use
may severely impact their visuospatial memory, according to a new study published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence
Researchers from McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School investigated 44 individuals, aged 29-55, with 31 having used AAS for an average of seven years, the Science Daily
reports. Each participant was asked to complete five cognitive tests that assessed a wide range of brain functions, including the memory for shapes and locations of objects, memory for lists of words, reaction time, ability to maintain attention, and speed of information processing.
The researchers found that long-term AAS users have poor score than nonusers on a test called "Pattern Recognition Memory," where participants are asked to try to remember a collection of patterns that they have been presented on a computer screen.
"Our work clearly shows that while some areas of brain function appear to be unaffected by the use of AAS, users performed significantly worse on the visuospatial tests that were administered. Those deficits directly corresponded to their length of use of anabolic-androgenic steroids," explained McLean Hospital Research Psychiatrist Harrison Pope, MD. "Impaired visuospatial memory means that a person might have difficulty, for example, in remembering how to find a location, such as an address on a street or a room in a building."
Pope and colleagues are not sure whether extended use of AAS could result in cognitive defects, but they are hoping that their findings
would lead to larger studies and increased awareness regarding the possible dangers of anabolic steroids abuse