The effects of intravenous diazepam and hyoscine upon human memory

Frith, C. D.; Richardson, J. T. E.; Samuel, M.; Crow, T. J. and McKenna, P. J. (1984). The effects of intravenous diazepam and hyoscine upon human memory. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A, 36(1) pp. 133–144.



Diazepam and hyoscine are known to have amnesic effects when administered intravenously. The two drugs are pharmacologically quite different from each other and might be expected to produce qualitatively distinct patterns of impairment in formal memory tasks. Groups of normal volunteers received intravenous administrations of diazepam, hyoscine and saline following a double-blind procedure and were then tested on immediate serial recall. Diazepam and hyoscine produced similar deficits on concrete and abstract words whether scored for ordered recall or item recall. In terms of ordered recall, phonemic similarity produced impaired performance under all three administrations, but semantic similarity did not. In terms of item recall, diazepam and hyoscine produced impaired performance on unrelated words, but the impairment was reduced under conditions of either phonemic or semantic similarity. There were also some interesting differences between diazepam and hyoscine in terms of their effects upon the shape of the serial-position curve and upon the types of intrusion error. The results confirm that both diazepam and hyoscine impair acquisition processes but fail to distinguish the effects of the two drugs upon different categories of encoding operations.

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