In this chapter I shall focus on pharmacological treatments of anxiety — on how anxiolytic drugs affect human cognitive functions. Little is known about the effects of non-pharmacological treatments of anxiety, although it is possible that any effective anti-anxiety treatment may influence cognition by changing how threat-related information is attended to and interpreted. Within pharmacological treatments, the benzodiazepines (BDZ) have attracted by far the widest research effort and interest in terms of their effects on memory. It is widely reported that BDZ produce anterograde ‘amnesia’ in humans. Many studies have been carried out in which a single dose of a BDZ has been given to non-anxious, volunteer subjects and significant impairments have been found in their performance on memory tasks. Indeed, anaesthetists often praise the ‘amnesic’ action of BDZ. When these drugs are given as premedicants before an operation, the patient is likely to forget the entire experience and anaesthetists see this as an advantage. Clearly, for the many thousands of patients who take BDZ on a daily basis as an antianxiety treatment, memory loss is a definite disadvantage.
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