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Plasma testosterone levels in Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases

Background: Testosterone deficiency, a treatable condition commonly seen in aging men, has been linked to Parkinson disease (PD) and Alzheimer disease (AD). In normal subjects, low testosterone levels are associated with cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms, yet the relationship between testosterone levels and cognitive function in PD and AD remains unclear.

Objective: To examine the relationship of testosterone levels to age and cognitive function in PD and AD.

Methods: Plasma testosterone levels were determined in men enrolled in a clinical registry of subjects with PD and AD, and neuropsychological testing was performed on subjects who consented. Testosterone levels in men with PD were compared with those in men with AD. In both groups, the relationship between testosterone levels and neuropsychological test scores was analyzed, adjusting for age and education.

Results: Linear regression analysis revealed that testosterone levels decreased with age in male PD patients (p < 0.03) and male AD patients (p < 0.07). The rate of decline was similar for the two groups. In PD patients, lower testosterone levels were associated with poorer performance on Trails B Seconds (p < 0.02).

Conclusions: There is a similar age-related decline in plasma testosterone levels in men with either PD or AD. Previously described associations between low testosterone levels and frontal lobe dysfunction in normal aged men, together with these results, suggest that the hormonal deficiency may act as a "second hit" to impair cognitive function in neurodegenerative disease.