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β-Adrenergic activation and memory for emotional events


SUBSTANTIAL evidence from animal studies suggests that enhanced memory associated with emotional arousal results from an activation of β-adrenergic stress hormone systems during and after an emotional experience1–3. To examine this implication in human subjects, we investigated the effect of the β-adrenergic receptor antagonist propranolol hydrochloride on long-term memory for an emotionally arousing short story, or a closely matched but more emotionally neutral story. We report here that propranolol significantly impaired memory of the emotionally arousing story but did not affect memory of the emotionally neutral story. The impairing effect of propranolol on memory of the emotional story was not due either to reduced emotional responsiveness or to nonspecific sedative or attentional effects. The results support the hypothesis that enhanced memory associated with emotional experiences involves activation of the β-adrenergic system.

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Cahill, L., Prins, B., Weber, M. et al. β-Adrenergic activation and memory for emotional events. Nature 371, 702–704 (1994).

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