Psychostimulants may block long-term memory formation via degraded sleep in healthy adults.


Whitehurst LN(1), Mednick SC(2).
Author information:
(1)Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, 171 Funkhouser Dr, Lexington, KY 40508, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
(2)Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, Irvine, 2201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


Sleep is vital for biological function and long-term memory formation, with preferential enhancement of emotionally laden content. A growing trend in healthy young adults is the non-medical use of psychostimulants, or "smart drugs", to prevent sleep and, hopefully, enhance cognition. However, the effect of these drugs on sleep-dependent memory processes are unclear. Here, in a within-subject, double-blind, placebo-controlled design, we investigated the impact of morning administration of dextroamphetamine on memory retention of negative and neutral pictures after 1) 12 h of wake, and 2) 24 h with sleep. After 12-hrs of wake, stimulants increased hit rate for neutral, but not negative, pictures, compared to placebo. No differences in memory discrimination were found. In addition, stimulants impaired nighttime sleep and significantly reduced memory for neutral pictures at 24-hrs, compared to placebo. Again, no performance differences between drug conditions were found for negative pictures. Together, these findings suggest that stimulants impairment of nighttime sleep likely leads to next day memory costs.