Human Pharmacology

Psychopharmacology

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 23-27

First online:

Physostigmine: Effects on cognition and affect in normal subjects

  • Kenneth L. DavisAffiliated withDepartments of Medicine and Psychiatry, Stanford UniversityPalo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital
  • , Leo E. HollisterAffiliated withDepartments of Medicine and Psychiatry, Stanford UniversityPalo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital
  • , John OverallAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology and Psychiatry, University of Texas Medical Branch
  • , Anne JohnsonAffiliated withDepartments of Medicine and Psychiatry, Stanford UniversityPalo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital
  • , Karen TrainAffiliated withDepartments of Medicine and Psychiatry, Stanford UniversityPalo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital

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Abstract

Physostigmine was given intravenously to a total dose of 3 mg to 13 subjects; a placebo of 0.25 N saline was given intravenously to 10 other subjects; both groups received 1 mg of methscopolamine bromide subcutaneously preceding the intravenous infusions. A “physostigmine syndrome” consisting of decreased speech, slowed thoughts, mild sedation, expressionless faces, nausea, and decreased spontaneous activity was evident following doses of 1.5 to 2.0 mg of physostigmine. The capacity of short-term memory (STM) as measured by digit span tasks was significantly less for the subjects who received physostigmine than for the subjects who received placebo. No difference was observed between the two groups on tasks of consolidation from STM to long-term memory (LTM).

Subiects who received physostigmine did not significantly differ from subjects who received placebo in their mood. However, two subjects in the physostigmine group, and no subjects in the saline group became tearful and depressed.

Key words

Physostigmine Short-term memory Long-term memory Depression Mania