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Behav Neural Biol. 1994 Nov;62(3):190-200.

Beta-adrenergic receptor antagonist antihypertensive medications impair arousal-induced modulation of working memory in elderly humans.

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Department of Psychology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale 62901-6502.


It is well-established that administration of moderate doses of the adrenal catecholamines epinephrine or norepinephrine shortly after training results in the enhancement of later retention performance in laboratory animals. These substances, released endogenously as a result of arousal, are thought to modulate memory processes by stimulating peripheral receptors that send neural messages to the brain, thus altering the memory storage process. The applicability of this hypothesis to the modulation of memory processes in humans was tested in this experiment by using elderly subjects who were chronically taking beta-receptor antagonist medications to control hypertension. A moderate level of muscle-tension-induced arousal was produced by having subjects squeeze a hand dynamometer during the initial storage and recall of highlighted words in short 200-word paragraphs. Twenty young normal individuals, 22 normotensive elderly subjects, 21 elderly subjects taking either calcium-channel blockers or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors to control hypertension, and 21 elderly subjects taking beta-blocker antihypertensive medications served as subjects. The young subjects, normal elderly subjects, and those taking non-beta-blocker medications all showed enhanced long-term recognition performance as a result of the arousal manipulation. However, those subjects chronically taking beta-receptor-antagonist medications showed no enhancement of memory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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