Autobiographic memory impairment following acute cortisol administration

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2004 Sep;29(8):1093-6. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2003.09.006.


Previous experimental studies in humans have reported that the administration of cortisol impairs retrieval of hippocampal dependent, episodic memory. In particular, cortisol impaired recall of previously learnt words. In the present study, we investigated if cortisol also affects autobiographical memory, which reflects a subcategory of hippocampal dependent, episodic memory. Twenty two male students participated in this placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study. One hour after the administration of 10 mg hydrocortisone, subjects generated significantly fewer specific memories in the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT) when compared to placebo. In contrast, cortisol did not affect mood and attention. The present findings extend the current knowledge about cortisol effects on memory retrieval and raise the possibility that impaired autobiographical memory in depression may be at least partly due to elevated cortisol levels which often accompany this disorder.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Memory Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Recognition, Psychology / drug effects
  • Reference Values
  • Self Concept*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Hydrocortisone