Guanfacine, but not clonidine, improves planning and working memory performance in humans

Neuropsychopharmacology. 1999 May;20(5):460-70. doi: 10.1016/S0893-133X(98)00127-4.


The present study compares, using a double-blind, placebo controlled design the effects of two alpha 2-agonists, clonidine (0.5, 2, and 5 micrograms/kg) and guanfacine (7 and 29 micrograms/kg) on spatial working memory, planning and attentional set-shifting, functions thought to be dependent on the "central executive" of the prefrontal cortex. Blood pressure and the subjective feeling of sedation were affected equally by clonidine and guanfacine. The 0.5 microgram/kg and 5 micrograms/kg doses of clonidine disrupted spatial working memory, but the medium dose had no effect. The 0.5 and 2 micrograms/kg doses of clonidine increased impulsive responding in the planning test. The 5 micrograms/kg dose of clonidine slowed responding at effortful levels of planning and attentional set-shifting tests. The 29 micrograms/kg dose of guanfacine improved spatial working memory and planning. Guanfacine had no effect on attentional set-shifting. These data indicate that guanfacine improved planning and spatial working memory, but clonidine dose-dependently disrupted performance. It is possible that the greater selectivity of guanfacine for alpha 2A-adrenoceptor subtype may underlie its differences from clonidine.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / adverse effects
  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Adult
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Clonidine / adverse effects
  • Clonidine / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Guanfacine / adverse effects
  • Guanfacine / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Mental Processes / drug effects*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Guanfacine
  • Clonidine