Testosterone aromatization and cognition in women

A randomized, placebo-controlled trial

Sonal Shah, Robin J. Bell, Greg Savage, Rebecca Goldstat, Mary Anne Papalia, Jayashri Kulkarni, Susan Donath, Susan R. Davis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To explore whether inhibition of the conversion of testosterone to estradiol modifies the effects of testosterone on cognition in 61 healthy, estrogen-treated postmenopausal women. DESIGN: Seventy-six postmenopausal women using transdermal estrogen for at least 8 weeks, with a serum total testosterone less than 1.2 nmol/L participated in a single-center, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. All participants received transdermal testosterone, 400 μL of a 0.5% testosterone gel, daily and were randomized to receive either letrozole 2.5 mg/day or an identical placebo tablet. The main outcome measure was cognition, evaluated using a comprehensive battery of standardized neuropsychological tests, at baseline and week 16. RESULTS: Thirty women in each group completed the study. Free testosterone increased from baseline in both groups, with no difference between groups. Free testosterone levels achieved were below the 90th centile for young women in 80% of the participants at week 16. Serum estradiol and sex hormone-binding globulin levels did not differ from baseline or between groups during the study. No clinically significant effects of testosterone treatment were seen for attention and working memory, psychomotor speed, or executive function. Significant improvements were seen for immediate and delayed visual and verbal memory and for simple concentration with testosterone therapy, all of which were unaffected by the aromatase inhibitor. CONCLUSIONS: We did not observe any effects of aromatase inhibition on cognition in healthy, estrogen-treated postmenopausal women treated with testosterone. This may be due to insufficient study power or a true lack of effect. However, our findings highlight that the detection of subtle changes in cognition in well women require the development of sensitive instruments and large randomized, controlled trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-608
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Postmenopausal androgen therapy
  • Testosterone
  • Testosterone and cognition

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    Shah, S., Bell, R. J., Savage, G., Goldstat, R., Papalia, M. A., Kulkarni, J., ... Davis, S. R. (2006). Testosterone aromatization and cognition in women: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Menopause, 13(4), 600-608. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.gme.0000227333.50867.4e