Sulpiride and mnemonic function: effects of a dopamine D2 receptor antagonist on working memory, emotional memory and long-term memory in healthy volunteers
Mehta, M.A.; Hinton, E.C.; Montgomery, A.J.; Bantick, R.A.; Grasby, P.M.
Journal of Psychopharmacology 19(1): 29-38
ISSN/ISBN: 0269-8811 PMID: 15671126 DOI: 10.1177/0269881105048889
There is now substantial evidence from animal studies showing modulation of cognitive performance after administration of dopaminergic agents. Previous studies have focused on cognitive functions such as working memory (WM), with particular reference to spatial processing. However, to date, studies in normal human volunteers have proved inconsistent. We have therefore tested the effects of the dopamine D2 receptor antagonist sulpiride (400 mg) on WM and learning tasks, including those using auditory, spatial or non-spatial stimuli. A further aim was to explore a broader role of the dopaminergic system in mnemonic function by examining long-term and emotional memory. Eighteen healthy male participants were given a battery of cognitive tests after oral sulpiride or placebo, using the cross-over design. WM was assessed using a spatial searching task, and a task of auditory counting with distraction. Tasks that did not emphasize WM were spatial and non-spatial trial-and-error learning, long-term spatial memory and emotional memory. After dopamine D2 receptor blockade, performance was not impaired on the spatial WM (SWM) task, but was impaired on the auditory counting task with distraction. Sulpiride did not impair, but rather appeared to enhance trial-and-error learning overall. Thus, we were unable to support the notion that dopaminergic modulation preferentially influences spatial over non-spatial processing during learning. In addition, recognition was impaired in the emotional memory task after encoding on drug compared to placebo. These findings question the precise role of dopamine D2 receptor modulation on WM, and highlight the need for sensitive tests to study dopaminergic modulation of emotional processing.