Effects of acute prednisone administration on memory, attention and emotion in healthy human adults

Louis A. Schmidt, Nathan A. Fox, Melissa C. Goldberg, Craig C. Smith, Jay Schulkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


We conducted a double-blind study in order to examine the effects of high doses of prednisone on memory, attention and emotion in humans. A total of 24 healthy undergraduate males self-administered either 160 mg of prednisone (n = 12) or a placebo (n = 12) for 4 consecutive days. We examined group differences in mood, regional brain electrical activity (EEG), the startle eyeblink response, memory recall and performance on an attention task after 4 days of treatment. We found significant group differences on measures of mood and frontal EEG alpha activity on 4-day treatment. Subjects treated with prednisone exhibited a significantly greater increase in self-reporter negative emotion and greater relative right frontal EEG alpha activity on 4- day treatment compared with adults in the placebo group. We also found that subjects treated with prednisone recalled fewer objects on the memory task following treatment. No significant group differences were found on posterior EEG activity, the startle eyeblink measure, or the attention measure. These findings suggest that administration of high doses of exogenous prednisone may facilitate the experience of negative emotion and shifts in frontal EEG activity, and impair some aspects of cognitive functioning in humans. The multiple roles of glucocorticoids in memory, attention and emotion are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-483
Number of pages23
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Emotion
  • Frontal EEG asymmetry
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Memory
  • Mood
  • Prednisone
  • Startle eyeblink response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of acute prednisone administration on memory, attention and emotion in healthy human adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this