Retrograde facilitation under midazolam:The role of general and specific interference

Lynne Reder, Carnegie Mellon University
John R. Anderson, Carnegie Mellon University
Joyce M. Oates, Carnegie Mellon University
Daniel Dickison, Carnegie Mellon University
Ferenc Gyulai, University of Pittsburgh - Main Campus
Joseph J. Quinlan, University of Pittsburgh - Main Campus
Jennifer L. Ferris, Carnegie Mellon University
Michael Dulik, University of Pittsburgh - Main Campus
Brandi F. Jefferson, University of Pittsburgh - Main Campus

Abstract or Description

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment that used midazolam, a benzodiazepine that creates temporary amnesia, we compared acquisition and retention of paired associates of different types. Some word pairs were studied before the injection of saline or midazolam, and two lists of word pairs were studied after the injection. Critical comparisons involved retention of pairs that were practiced on all three lists, pairs studied on only one list, and pairs that involved recombining cue and response terms from one list to the next, as a function of drug condition. Previous research with benzodiazepines had found retrograde facilitation for material acquired prior to injection, compared with the control condition. One explanation for this facilitation is that the anterograde amnesia produced by the benzodiazepine frees up the hippocampus to better consolidate previously learned material (Wixted, 2004, 2005). We accounted for a rich data set using a simple computational model that incorporated interference effects (cue overload) at retrieval for both general (experimental context) interference and specific (stimulus term) interference without the need to postulate a role for consolidation. The computational model as an Excel spreadsheet may be downloaded from