Working memory is more sensitive than declarative memory to the acute effects of corticosteroids: a dose-response study in humans

Behav Neurosci. 1999 Jun;113(3):420-30. doi: 10.1037//0735-7044.113.3.420.


The effects of various doses (40 microg/kg/hr, 300 microg/kg/hr, 600 microg/kg/hr or placebo) of hydrocortisone on tasks assessing working and declarative memory function were measured in 4 groups of 10 young men. During the infusion, participants were given an item-recognition working memory task, a paired-associate declarative memory task, and a continuous performance task used to control possible concomitant effects of corticosteroids on vigilance. The results revealed significant acute effects of the highest dose of hydrocortisone on working memory function, without any significant effect on declarative memory function or arousal-vigilance performance. These results suggest that working memory is more sensitive than declarative memory to the acute elevations of corticosteroids, which could explain the detrimental effects of corticosteroids on acquisition and consolidation of information, as reported in the literature.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects*
  • Arousal / drug effects*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / adverse effects*
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects
  • Mental Recall / drug effects
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Word Association Tests


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Blood Glucose
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Hydrocortisone