Further Insight into Cognitive and Metacognitive Processes of the Tip-of-the-Tongue State with an Amnesic Drug as Cognitive Tool

  • Elisabeth Bacon


The tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) state may be viewed as temporary and reversible micro-amnesia. Amnesic drugs, such as benzodiazepines, may be used as tools to reveal functional principles of normal cognitive processes. We investigated the effects of lorazepam on TOT state. With general information questions, Lorazepam participants provided more commission errors and more TOT states following commissions than placebo participants, whereas the resolution of the TOTs was unimpaired. The higher amount of incorrect recalls provided by lorazepam participants may partially result from the fact that they are more frequently in a state of transitory inaccessibility of a known item, identifiable as a commission TOT (participants provide a persistent alternate and experience the phenomenological TOT only after having been informed of the error). This way of resolving the TOT conflict is discussed in light of the anxiolytic effect of the drug. Lorazepam led the participants to generate more persistent alternates when in a TOT while preserving the cognitive process of TOT, that is, the temporary failure to retrieve a known word.


Semantic Memory Commission Error Confidence Judgment Retrieval Failure General Knowledge Question 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by Inserm and by a Cognitique “Impairments and recovery of cognitive functions” grant from the French Ministry of Research. The author wishes to thank Marie Izaute, Bennett Schwartz, and Laurence Paire-Ficout for their valuable contribution to the TOT study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychiatry DepartmentNational Institute for Health and Medical Research (U 666 INSERM) and University HospitalStrasbourg CedexFrance

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