Propranolol reduces emotional distraction in working memory: a partial mediating role of propranolol-induced cortisol increases?
ABSTRACT Noradrenalin modulates prefrontal function, such as working memory (WM), and is associated with enhanced distractibility, and enhanced memory for emotional events and stimuli. The beta-blocker propranolol has been shown to reduce memory for emotional stimuli. Herein we describe investigations aimed at assessing whether the administration of propranolol would reduce the interference by emotional distractions during WM performance. In a between-subjects design, 48 young, healthy men received 80 mg propranolol (n=25) or placebo (n=23), before performing an "emotional Sternberg task" with neutral and negatively arousing distracters. Compared to placebo, propranolol impaired WM at low load, however, it also reduced the interference by emotional distracters at high load. Furthermore, an explorative moderated-mediation analysis indicated that the observed propranolol effects on emotional distraction were partially mediated by cortisol. In future non-clinical and clinical memory studies using propranolol administration, cortisol elevations should be monitored to further investigate the potential mediating role of cortisol.