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Sci Adv. 2019 Mar 20;5(3):eaav3801. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aav3801. eCollection 2019 Mar.

Propofol-induced deep sedation reduces emotional episodic memory reconsolidation in humans.

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Laboratory for Clinical Neuroscience, Centre for Biomedical Technology, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain.
Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, NY, USA.
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Donders Institute, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen 6525 EZ, Netherlands.
Department of Gastroenterology, Hospital Clínico San Carlos and Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria San Carlos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.
Department of Anesthesia, Hospital Clínico San Carlos, Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria San Carlos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.
Department of Basic Psychology I, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain.
Department of Neuroimaging, Alzheimer's Disease Research Centre, Reina Sofia-CIEN Foundation, Madrid, Spain.


The adjustment of maladaptive thoughts and behaviors associated with emotional memories is central to treating psychiatric disorders. Recent research, predominantly with laboratory animals, indicates that memories can become temporarily sensitive to modification following reactivation, before undergoing reconsolidation. A method to selectively impair reconsolidation of specific emotional or traumatic memories in humans could translate to an effective treatment for conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder. We tested whether deep sedation could impair emotional memory reconsolidation in 50 human participants. Administering the intravenous anesthetic propofol following memory reactivation disrupted memory for the reactivated, but not for a non-reactivated, slideshow story. Propofol impaired memory for the reactivated story after 24 hours, but not immediately after propofol recovery. Critically, memory impairment occurred selectively for the emotionally negative phase of the reactivated story. One dose of propofol following memory reactivation selectively impaired subsequent emotional episodic memory retrieval in a time-dependent manner, consistent with reconsolidation impairment.

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