Blood glucose changes and memory: effects of manipulating emotionality and mental effort

Biol Psychol. 2006 Jan;71(1):12-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2005.02.003.


Increasing the emotionality of target material often facilitates memory performance which may be linked to the liberation of glucose. Conversely, increasing mental effort leads to reduced performance and measurable falls in blood glucose. A 2 x 2, parallel groups experiment examined these two phenomena directly by assessing blood glucose levels and memory for neutral and emotional word lists, both with and without a secondary task. Co-performing the secondary task significantly reduced blood glucose in the neutral word condition only and resulted in a global reduction of memory performance in both neutral and emotional word conditions. Processing emotional material resulted in significantly raised blood glucose levels, however, there was no advantage for memory of emotional words. A follow-up study confirmed that the emotionality manipulation was effective. We conclude that there exists a clear relationship between reduced blood glucose and impaired memory performance during periods of mental effort. However, the relationship between physiological and cognitive processes associated with processing emotional material are more complex.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vocabulary


  • Blood Glucose