The effects of chronic administration of hydrocortisone on cognitive function in normal male volunteers.
Young AH., Sahakian BJ., Robbins TW., Cowen PJ.
RATIONALE: Corticosteroids are elevated in certain neuropsychiatric disorders and this may contribute to the neuropsychological impairments reported in these disorders. OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of hydrocortisone on learning, memory and executive function. METHODS: Hydrocortisone 20 mg was administered twice daily for 10 days to normal male volunteers in a randomized, placebo control, crossover, within-subject design. Learning, memory and executive function were measured using selected subtests from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery. RESULTS: Hydrocortisone caused impairments of visuo-spatial memory. These included increased within search errors and impaired use of strategies on the spatial working memory subtest. In addition, administration of hydrocortisone was associated with more errors in the paired associate learning subtest, although no effect was found on the Tower of London. Hydrocortisone speeded response latencies in certain tests (pattern and spatial recognition memory). CONCLUSION: These results indicate that chronic administration of hydrocortisone leads to deficits in certain tests of cognitive function sensitive to frontal lobe dysfunction and may contribute to the cognitive impairment reported in certain neuropsychiatric disorders.