Effects of testosterone supplementation on separate cognitive domains in cognitively healthy older men

a meta-analysis of current randomized clinical trials

Sherilyn Tan, Hamid R. Sohrabi*, Michael Weinborn, Michelle Tegg, Romola S. Bucks, K. Taddei, Malcolm Carruthers, Ralph N. Martins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: An increasing body of literature suggests a positive, neuroprotective effect for testosterone on cognition in older men. However, randomized clinical trials (RCTs) examining the effects of testosterone supplementation (TS) on cognitive function have been inconclusive. Objective: To investigate the potential for TS to prevent cognitive decline in otherwise cognitively healthy older men, by examining the differential effects of TS on cognitively healthy older men in RCTs. Methods: Comprehensive search of electronic databases, conference proceedings, and grey literature from 1990 to 2018 was performed to identify RCTs examining the effects of TS on cognition before and after supplementation, in cognitively healthy individuals. Results: A final sample of 14 eligible RCTs met inclusion criteria. Using pooled random effects expressed as Hedge's g, comparison of placebo versus treatment groups pre- and postsupplementation showed improvements in the treatment group in executive function (g (11) = 0.14, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.03–0.26, z = 0.56, p = 0.011). However, it was noted that two studies in our sample did not report a significant increase in mean serum total testosterone (TT) levels in the treatment group after supplementation. Following exclusion of these studies, analysis indicated improvement in the treatment group for the overall cognitive composite (g (11) = 0.18, 95% CI: 0.02–0.33, z = 2.18), psychomotor speed (g (3) = 0.22, 95% CI: 0.01–0.43, z = 2.07) and executive function (g (9) = 0.15, 95% CI: 0.03–0.28, z = 2.35). No significant differences were noted for the global cognition, attention, verbal memory, visuospatial ability or visuospatial memory domains. Conclusion: Overall, our findings support the potential for TS as a preventative measure against cognitive decline, although the effect sizes were small. These findings warrant further observational studies and clinical trials of good methodological quality, to elucidate the effect of TS on cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1232-1246
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • ageing
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • cognitive decline
  • cognitive function
  • hypogonadism
  • memory
  • Testosterone supplementation

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