The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Brief Reports

β-Adrenergic blockade and emotional memory in PTSD

Christopher  Reist  a1 a2 c1, John Gregory  Duffy  a1, Ken  Fujimoto  a1 and Larry  Cahill  a3
a1 Department of Psychiatry, VA Healthcare System, Long Beach, CA, USA
a2 Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA
a3 Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA


Emotional arousal has been shown to enhance memory, an effect that is blocked by propranolol suggesting that the noradrenergic system is important in the mechanism action. Because PTSD has as prominent features heightened arousal and distressing memories, the current study was undertaken to examine whether PTSD subjects differed from controls in emotional enhancement of memory. Seventeen subjects with PTSD and 21 controls received either placebo or 40 mg of propranolol prior to exposure to either an emotionally arousing or emotionally neutral, narrated slide story. Recall, measured 1 wk later, for the arousing story was enhanced and this effect was reduced by propranolol. PTSD and control subjects did not differ in the acquisition and retention of memories under emotionally arousing or emotionally neutral conditions, nor were differential effects of propranolol observed between the two groups.

(Received February 28 2001)
(Reviewed April 15 2001)
(Accepted April 15 2001)

Key Words: Arousal; emotion; memory; propranolol; PTSD.

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr C. Reist, VA Healthcare System (06/116), Long Beach, CA 90822, USA. Tel.: (562) 494-5758 Fax: (562) 494-5969 E-mail: