• lorazepam;
  • benzodiazepines;
  • visual abilities;
  • central executive;
  • working memory;
  • performance



To evaluate the effects of an acute dose of the benzodiazepine (BZ) lorazepam in young healthy volunteers on five distinguishable visual perception abilities determined by previous factor-analytic studies.


This was a double-blind, cross-over design study of acute oral doses of lorazepam (2 mg) and placebo in young healthy volunteers. We focused on a set of paper-and-pencil tests of visual perceptual abilities that load on five correlated but distinguishable factors (Spatial Visualization, Spatial Relations, Perceptual Speed, Closure Speed, and Closure Flexibility). Some other tests (DSST, immediate and delayed recall of prose; measures of subjective mood alterations) were used to control for the classic BZ-induced effects.


Lorazepam impaired performance in the DSST and delayed recall of prose, increased subjective sedation and impaired tasks of all abilities except Spatial Visualization and Closure Speed. Only impairment in Perceptual Speed (Identical Pictures task) and delayed recall of prose were not explained by sedation.


Acute administration of lorazepam, in a dose that impaired episodic memory, selectively affected different visual perceptual abilities before and after controlling for sedation. Central executive demands and sedation did not account for results, so impairment in the Identical Pictures task may be attributed to lorazepam's visual processing alterations. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.