The effect of propranolol on cognitive flexibility and memory in acute cocaine withdrawal

Brendan J. Kelley, Kenneth R. Yeager, Tom H. Pepper, Robert A. Bornstein, David Q. Beversdorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


Upregulated noradrenergic activity occurs early in cocaine withdrawal. Our previous work revealed impaired cognitive flexibility in acute cocaine withdrawal, a cognitive domain that appears to be modulated by noradrenergic activity. Therefore, we wished to determine the effect of beta-adrenergic antagonists on cognitive performance in acute cocaine withdrawal. Eleven subjects acutely withdrawing from cocaine were tested in this pilot study on tasks of cognitive flexibility as well as word fluency, attention, verbal memory, and spatial memory, off and on propranolol in a double-blinded manner. Propranolol significantly benefited certain aspects of cognitive flexibility in acute cocaine withdrawal, and improved some measures of verbal fluency and verbal recall. Cocaine withdrawal treatment is characterized by high failure rates. Further research is needed to determine the role this finding of a reversible cognitive impairment in cocaine withdrawal has in treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-327
Number of pages8
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007



  • Cocaine
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Noradrenergic
  • Problem solving
  • Propranolol
  • Semantic memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology

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