When memory fails, intuition reigns: midazolam enhances implicit inference in humans

Psychol Sci. 2006 Aug;17(8):700-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01769.x.


People often make logically sound decisions using explicit reasoning strategies, but sometimes it pays to rely on more implicit "gut-level" intuition. The transitive inference paradigm has been widely used as a test of explicit logical reasoning in animals and humans, but it can also be solved in a more implicit manner. Some researchers have argued that the hippocampus supports relational memories required for making logical inferences. Here we show that the benzodiazepene midazolam, which inactivates the hippocampus, causes profound explicit memory deficits in healthy participants, but enhances their ability in making implicit transitive inferences. These results are consistent with neurocomputational models of the basal ganglia-dopamine system that learn to make decisions through positive and negative reinforcement. We suggest that disengaging the hippocampal explicit memory system can be advantageous for this more implicit form of learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • GABA Modulators / administration & dosage
  • GABA Modulators / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Intuition / drug effects*
  • Logic
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Midazolam / administration & dosage
  • Midazolam / pharmacology*


  • GABA Modulators
  • Midazolam