Under a working clinical hypothesis that aging putatively disrupts neuroendocrine control mechanisms, here we test a specific corollary notion that transitions in sleep stage, oscillations in nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT; a neurogenically organized signal), and the rates of instantaneous secretion of LH and/or testosterone are jointly synchronous in healthy young, but not older, men. To this end, we evaluated 10 young (aged 21-31 yr) and 8 older (aged 65-74 yr) men by intensive overnight multisite monitoring, viz. simultaneous electroencephalogram and NPT recordings (every 30 s) and remote blood sampling (every 2.5 min) to quantitate LH and testosterone release. Waveform-independent deconvolution and cross-correlation analyses of these neurohormone outflow measures revealed that healthy young men sustain four salient physiological linkages overnight: 1) a strong inverse (confirmatory) relationship between sleep stage and NPT activity, such that deeper sleep is accompanied by suppression of NPT; 2) consistent coupling between NPT and testosterone secretion, wherein heightened NPT activity respectively precedes and follows increased testosterone secretion by 12.5-32.5 and 50-60 min; 3) evident synchrony between sleep stage and testosterone secretion, in which testosterone secretion increases over a 30-min window (-2.5 to 25 min) while sleep deepens; and 4) a close temporal linkage between instantaneous LH release and NPT oscillations, whereby LH secretion increases 55-62.5 min before and again 5-30 min after NPT declines. In contrast, older men manifested global loss of expected young adult synchrony; namely, 1) abolition of the inverse relationship between sleep stage and NPT, 2) decorrelation of NPT oscillations and testosterone secretion, 3) decoupling of testosterone release and deep sleep, and 4) abrogation of the linkage between LH secretion and penile detumescence. In summary, high intensity overnight monitoring of multiple reproductive neuroendocrine outflow measures simultaneously in young men delineates prominent neurophysiological coupling among sleep transitions and NPT activity, LH and testosterone secretion or NPT oscillations, and testosterone secretion and deepening sleep stage. In contrast, healthy older men exhibit near-universal disruption of physiological young adult synchronicity. Thus, we conclude that male reproductive aging is marked by erosion of coordinate regulation among sleep transitions, central nervous system-directed NPT activity, and hypothalamically driven episodic GnRH/LH (and thereby Leydig cell testosterone) secretion. Whether analogous multifold uncoupling of neurohormone signals emerges in the course of reproductive aging in women or in nonhuman species is not yet known.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical