Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5-Is) improve cognitive performance of rodents, but the few human studies investigating their effects did not systematically investigate cognitive effects and the results have been quite contradictory. Therefore, we examined whether the PDE5-I vardenafil improves memory and executive functioning and affect electroencephalography (EEG) in healthy young adults. Participants were selected out of a group of volunteers, based on their performance on a memory screening and they were orally treated with vardenafil (10-20 mg or placebo). Memory and executive functioning were tested while EEG activity was recorded. Additionally, a simple reaction time task and questionnaires addressing various complaints were presented. No prominent effects of vardenafil on cognition were found: participants only made more mistakes on a reaction time task after 20 mg vardenafil. During encoding of words, the P300 was generally smaller after vardenafil treatment. Furthermore, the N400 was larger after vardenafil 10 mg than placebo treatment in a spatial memory task at Fz. Finally, headache and feeling weak were reported more after vardenafil treatment. Vardenafil did not affect cognitive performance of healthy adults and showed only some incidental effects on ERPs. These findings in humans do not corroborate the cognition-enhancing effects of PDE5-Is in healthy animals.
Keywords: Cognition; executive functioning; human; learning; memory; phosphodiesterase.