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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2003 Jan;79(1):81-8.

Sex-related impairment of memory for emotional events with beta-adrenergic blockade.

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Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-3800, USA.


On the basis of recent evidence indicating a sex-related lateralization of amygdala function in memory for emotional events, together with substantial evidence suggesting hemispheric specialization in processing global (central) versus local (detail) aspects of a situation, and the established dependence of the amygdala's memory modulating function on beta-adrenergic receptor activation, we predicted differential effects of a beta-adrenergic receptor antagonist (propranolol) on long-term memory for an emotionally arousing story in men and women. Specifically, we predicted that, relative to placebo, propranolol would impair memory for information central to the story line, but not memory for peripheral story details in men. Conversely, propranolol would impair memory for peripheral details, but not for central information in women. Here we confirm this prediction with a novel analysis of data from our two published studies of propranolol's effect on memory for an emotionally arousing story. These findings demonstrate a sex-related impairment of memory for emotional information by beta-adrenergic blockade. Additionally, they provide support for the hypothesis that, in this paradigm, emotional arousal enhances long-term memory for central information in men via activation of right amygdala/hemisphere function, and enhances long-term memory for peripheral details in women via activation of left amygdala/hemisphere function.

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