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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1995 Feb;117(4):486-90.

Effects of nitrous oxide on psychological performance. A dose-response study using inhalation of concentrations up to 15%.

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Department of Anaesthetics, Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, UK.


In this six-period randomised double-blind study, 12 healthy volunteers inhaled mixtures of nitrous oxide at concentrations of 0% (placebo); 3%, 5%, 7%, 10%, and 15% in oxygen. Each concentration was inhaled for 55 min, each period being on a separate day. The order of treatments was randomised using a Latin-Square design. The effects of nitrous oxide were assessed using a battery of performance tests which included measures of attention, psychomotor function, memory and cognition. Mood was assessed using visual analogue scales. Measures of attention and psychomotor performance showed impairment at 15% nitrous oxide, and subjective measures showed sedation at this dose. The Buschke Selective Reminding Task showed impairment to long-term recall at all doses of nitrous oxide compared to placebo, while short-term recall was impaired only at 15%. These results suggest that consolidation of memory may be particularly sensitive to disruption as a result of CNS depression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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