Cortisol differentially affects memory in young and elderly men
Nine young and 11 elderly men participated in this placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study (0.5 mg/kg cortisol or intravenous placebo). Participants learned a word list before cortisol administration, and delayed recall was then tested. A 2nd word list was learned and recalled after drug administration. In addition, the Paragraph Recall Test and tests measuring working memory (Digit Span), attention (timed cancellation), and response inhibition (Stroop Color and Word Test) were administered at 2 time points after drug administration. Cortisol reduced recall from the word list learned before treatment in both groups but did not influence recall of the list learned after treatment. In contrast, Digit Span performance was decreased by cortisol in young but not elderly participants. The possibility that differential age-associated brain changes might underlie the present results is discussed.