Male testosterone could be a useful treatment for autism, epilepsy, dementia and other brain disorders, says a team of researchers led by Professor John Mathers.
Their findings, published in the journal Brain, appear in the online journal Neuron.
They say their findings “offer new hope for treating the neurological conditions associated with autism spectrum disorders”.
Autism is a neurological disorder that is marked by social exclusion, communication difficulties and other learning difficulties.
The cause of autism has remained unclear, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
The researchers are investigating whether testosterone is a potential treatment for those conditions.
They found that testosterone could improve behaviour and cognition in mice.
In the brain of adult male mice, testosterone was able to improve social interaction and memory in groups of two mice, but not in groups without testosterone.
“This is very exciting for us because in animals, if we can change one gene or one gene regulatory pathway it can potentially affect behaviour in many ways, so this could have important implications for autism,” Professor Mather, of the University of Edinburgh, said.
“These studies are really important because in the wild we don’t know which genes or pathways affect autism.
The research is also important because it opens up the possibility that testosterone may be effective in treating autism. “
In our mouse model, we found that we could improve social interactions and memory by altering one gene, and this is an important finding for us.”
The research is also important because it opens up the possibility that testosterone may be effective in treating autism.
The study involved mice that were given testosterone or a combination thereof.
Mice that received testosterone were more active, and also had better spatial memory and increased levels of the gene that controls testosterone secretion.
The mice that received a placebo did not show any differences.
The new study also looked at whether testosterone treatment might lead to long-term improvement in brain function in male mice.
Male mice were given the hormone testosterone and then had to walk on a treadmill for 15 minutes.
These mice were also given a chemical compound, called testosterone, that prevented them from being able to walk.
Mates were then tested for their ability to form social bonds and for their learning and memory skills.
The scientists found that male mice treated with testosterone had better social interactions, and they also had increased levels in the gene called dopamine D2.
Professor Moulton says testosterone has been used for decades to treat conditions such as diabetes and obesity.
But, as Professor Mårtens research shows, testosterone has also been found to reduce levels of some important brain chemicals.
He says the research is important because testosterone has many potential uses in the future.
“There is a big amount of work that is needed to understand exactly what these changes mean in the adult brain,” Professor Maertens said.
Professor Maartens said testosterone may also be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
“If we have more evidence that this is the case, we may be able to use testosterone to treat these diseases as well,” he said.