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Free Content Neurobehavioural performance effects of daytime melatonin and temazepam administration

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Exogenous melatonin is a potential treatment for circadian disruption and insomnia. Hence, it is important to determine and quantify neurobehavioural performance effects associated with its use. The present study compared neurobehavioural performance following administration of melatonin and the benzodiazepine temazepam, using a within-subjects design. Following a training day, 16 healthy, young subjects (six males, 10 females; mean age ± SEM, 21.4 ± 6 years) participated in a 3-day protocol. After sleeping overnight in the laboratory, subjects completed a battery of tests at hourly intervals between 08:00 and 11:00 hours and at two hourly intervals between 13:00 and 17:00 hours. The neurobehavioural performance tasks included: unpredictable tracking, spatial memory, vigilance and logical reasoning. Subjective sleepiness was measured at hourly intervals using a visual analogue scale. At 12:00 h subjects were administered a capsule containing 5 mg melatonin, 10 mg temazepam or placebo, in a randomized, double-blind crossover fashion. A significant drug × time interaction was evident on the unpredictable tracking, spatial memory and vigilance tasks (P < 0.05). Greater changes in performance were evident following temazepam administration than melatonin administration, relative to placebo. Administration of melatonin or temazepam significantly elevated subjective sleepiness levels, relative to placebo (P ≤ 0.05). The present findings demonstrate that melatonin administration induces a smaller deficit in performance on a range of neurobehavioural tasks than temazepam. Given melatonin's soporific and chronobiotic properties, these results suggest that melatonin may be preferable to benzodiazepines in the management of circadian and sleep disorders.

Keywords: benzodiazepine; melatonin; neurobehavioural performance

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Division of Sleep and Chronobiology, Unit for Experimental Psychiatry, The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA; 2: Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia and 3: The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, The Centre For Sleep Research, The University of South Australia, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woodville, SA, Australia

Publication date: September 1, 2003


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