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Free Content Retrograde effects of triazolam and zolpidem on sleep-dependent motor learning in humans

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Drugs that act as allosteric activators at the benzodiazepine site of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABAA) receptor complex are used commonly to treat insomnia but relatively little is known of how such use affects learning and memory. Although anterograde effects on memory acquisition have been shown, possible retrograde effects on consolidation are more relevant when such agents are administered at bedtime. We tested the effects of two GABAA allosteric activators on sleep-dependent motor skill memory consolidation in 12 healthy male subjects. Subjects slept in a sleep laboratory for four consecutive nights (one accommodation night followed by three experimental nights). Placebo, triazolam 0.375 mg, and zolpidem 10 mg were given to each subject in counterbalanced order on the experimental nights. Polysomnographic (PSG) sleep measurement and sleep-dependent motor learning were assessed at each condition. Triazolam was associated with longer total sleep time and increased Stage 2 sleep. Both zolpidem and triazolam were associated with increased latency to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Overnight motor learning correlated with total sleep time in the placebo condition but not in the triazolam or zolpidem conditions. A statistically significant impairment in motor performance occurred overnight in the triazolam condition only. Triazolam, given in sufficient doses to prolong sleep in healthy people, affected overnight motor learning adversely. Zolpidem, in a dose sufficient to prolong REM onset latency but without other effects on PSG-measured sleep, degraded the relationship between total sleep time and overnight motor learning. These data indicate that non-selective or α1-preferring benzodiazepine site allosteric activators can interfere with sleep-dependent memory consolidation.

Keywords: benzodiazepine; sleep; sleep-dependent learning; triazolam; zolpidem

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA 2: Neurogen Corporation, Branford, CT, USA

Publication date: 2010-03-01

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