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Effects of chlorpromazine and lorazepam on explicit memory, repetition priming and cognitive skill learning in healthy volunteers

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To assess the influence of neuroleptics on explicit memory and two forms of implicit memory, repetition priming and cognitive skill learning, the effects of two low doses of chlorpromazine (12.5 and 25 mg orally) were contrasted to those of lorazepam (2.5 mg orally) and of a placebo using a free-recall task, a word-completion task and repeated testing on the Tower of Toronto puzzle, a version of the Tower of Hanoi puzzle. Seventy-two healthy volunteers took part in this double-blind study. Chlorpromazine spared free-recall and word-completion performance, but impaired the acquisition of a cognitive routine in the subjects who completed the first trials of the Tower of Toronto puzzle efficiently. Lorazepam induced an opposite pattern of memory disruption. These preliminary results suggest that chlorpromazine and lorazepam induced a double dissociation between priming and the acquisition of a cognitive routine. They provide evidence that the two forms of implicit memory rely upon distinct neurochemical systems, the latter, but not the former, being dependent upon dopaminergic systems.

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Correspondence to Jean-Marie Danion.

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Danion, J., Peretti, S., Grangé, D. et al. Effects of chlorpromazine and lorazepam on explicit memory, repetition priming and cognitive skill learning in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology 108, 345–351 (1992).

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Key words

  • Chlorpromazine
  • Dopamine
  • Human
  • Learning
  • Lorazepam
  • Memory