Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic analysis of sedative and amnesic effects of lorazepam in healthy volunteers

Clin Neuropharmacol. 2001 Mar-Apr;24(2):71-81. doi: 10.1097/00002826-200103000-00002.


This study describes for the first time the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic modeling of the psychomotor and amnesic effects of a single 2-mg oral dose of lorazepam in healthy volunteers. Twelve healthy volunteers were included in this randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled two-way crossover study. The effect of lorazepam was examined for a battery of tests that explored mood, vigilance, psychomotor performance, and memory. The pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic modeling of these tests was performed using the indirect response model. Vigilance and psychomotor performance were significantly impaired. Short-term memory was not affected, but a paradoxical tendency to improvement of the score was observed 0.4 hours after drug intake. Significant impairment was observed for immediate and delayed cued verbal recall, for immediate and delayed free recall, and for picture recognition as well as for visual-verbal recall, but not for cued visual-spatial recall or priming. Globally, the different effects were greatest between 0.4 to 3 hours after dosing. However, the time course profile of the recovery period suggests a possible dissociation between the kinetics of the effects of lorazepam on vigilance, psychomotor performance, and visual episodic memory, on the one hand, and on verbal episodic memory, on the other. The pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic model used two compartments with first-order absorption to describe the lorazepam concentrations and an indirect response model with inhibition or stimulation of Kin to describe the effects. The mean values for calculated median effective concentration (EC50) derived from the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic modeling of the different tests ranged from 11.3 to 39.8 ng/mL. According to these EC50 values, lorazepam seemed to be more potent on the delayed-recall trials than on the immediate-recall trials; similar observations were made concerning the free-recall versus cued-recall trials. The previously stated results suggest that the tests performed in this study represent sensitive measurements of the effects of lorazepam on the central nervous system. Moreover, the parameter values derived from pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic modeling, especially, the EC50 values, may provide sensitive indices that can be used to compare the central nervous system effects of benzodiazepines.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amnesia, Anterograde / blood
  • Amnesia, Anterograde / chemically induced
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / blood
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology*
  • Lorazepam / blood
  • Lorazepam / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / drug effects*
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / drug effects*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Lorazepam