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J Psychopharmacol. 2007 Sep;21(7):673-83. Epub 2007 Jul 2.

Pharmacological manipulations of arousal and memory for emotional material: effects of a single dose of methylphenidate or lorazepam.

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School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.


Benzodiazepines produce robust impairments of memory alongside global decreases in physiological and subjective arousal. Recently one benzodiazepine (triazolam) has been found to disproportionately impair memory for emotionally arousing material (Buchanan et al., 2003). The extent to which this effect may be mediated by the drug's sedative action is unclear. The present study aimed to assess how pharmacologically decreasing physiological arousal with a benzodiazepine and increasing arousal with a stimulant impact on memory for emotional material. A double-blind placebo controlled trial with 48 volunteers was used to investigate the effects of methylphenidate (40 mg) and Lorazepam (1.5 mg) on incidental memory for emotional material in Cahill and McGaugh's (1995) slide-story task. The slide-story was presented to participants administered either active drug or placebo and retrieval was assessed one week later. Methylphenidate produced stimulant effects and Lorazepam produced sedative effects. Significantly enhanced memory for emotional material was observed in participants given placebo, but not in those given either methylphenidate or Lorazepam. Despite producing opposite effects upon arousal, both methylphenidate and Lorazepam lessen the impact of emotionally arousing material on memory. The effects of Lorazepam add to a growing literature that benzodiazepines may exert their clinical, anxiolytic effects in part via altering emotionaL cognitive function.

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