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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2001 Sep;4(3):299-313.

The pharmacology of human working memory.

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  • 1Neuropharmacology Laboratory, Brain Sciences Institute, Swinburne University of Technology, 400 Burwood Road, Hawthorn 3122, Australia.


Experimental studies conducted primarily on non-human primates have begun to address the anatomical and neurochemical correlates of working memory. There is an associated growing body of experimental literature investigating whether modulating key neurotransmitters can facilitate working memory in humans. This paper reviews evidence that acute modulation of dopamine in particular, but also noradrenaline, acetylcholine and serotonin may influence working-memory performance in humans. Differences in neurochemical specificity with regard to stages of working memory, type of working memory (spatial or non-spatial) and cortical effects are also discussed. This evidence has contributed to neuropharmacological understanding of working memory in humans. The important therapeutic consequences of a better understanding of facilitation of working memory is discussed in reference to schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

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