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Behav Neurosci. 2003 Jun;117(3):505-16.

Cortisol variation in humans affects memory for emotionally laden and neutral information.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1202 West Johnson Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


In a test of the effects of cortisol on emotional memory, 90 men were orally administered placebo or 20 or 40 mg cortisol and presented with emotionally arousing and neutral stimuli. On memory tests administered within 1 hr of stimulus presentation, cortisol elevations caused a reduction in the number of errors committed on free-recall tasks. Two evenings later, when cortisol levels were no longer manipulated, inverted-U quadratic trends were found for recognition memory tasks, reflecting memory facilitation in the 20-mg group for both negative and neutral information. Results suggest that the effects of cortisol on memory do not differ substantially for emotional and neutral information. The study provides evidence of beneficial effects of acute cortisol elevations on explicit memory in humans.

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