Cognitive and sedative effects of benzodiazepine use

Curr Pharm Des. 2002;8(1):45-58. doi: 10.2174/1381612023396654.


This paper reviews the effects of benzodiazepines (BZs) on the performance of tasks measuring human cognitive abilities. The paper reviews the most common cognitive side effects of BZs: increased sedation, decreased attention, and anterograde amnesia. In particular, this paper focuses on recent findings regarding time course-related effects on BZ-induced deficits in explicit and implicit human memory performance. Specifically, we reviewed recent research indicating that both explicit memory and priming are impaired by BZs if the encoding task takes place near the time of the theoretical peak plasma concentrations of the drug. Although BZs also appear to increase objective and subjective sedation, as well as to impair attentional processing, these other cognitive impairments do not appear to fully account for the widespread memory deficits caused by BZ administration. The theoretical and clinical implications of benzodiazepine-induced memory impairments are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Benzodiazepines / pharmacology
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Benzodiazepines