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October 1988

The Effects of Acute Scopolamine in Geriatric Depression

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Behavioral Biology, Neuropsychiatry Division, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, DC (Dr Newhouse); the Section of Clinical Neuropharmacology, Laboratories of Clinical Science (Drs Newhouse, Sunderland, Tariot, Mellow, and Murphy and Ms Thompson) and Cerebral Metabolism (Dr Cohen), National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md; the Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester (NY) School of Medicine (Dr Tariot); and the Department of Psychology, George Washington University, Washington, DC (Dr Weingartner). Dr Newhouse is now with the Clinical Psychopharmacology Research Program, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1988;45(10):906-912. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1988.01800340028004

• In an intensive multidrug, multidose study, nine elderly depressed patients were administered 0.1, 0.25, and 0.5 mg of scopolamine hydrobromide, 1 mg of oral lorazepam, and placebo in a double-blind investigation aimed at assessing the status of the central cholinergic nervous system in geriatric depression. Significant cognitive and behavioral effects of scopolamine were observed only at the high dose (0.5 mg), while lower doses and lorazepam showed no significant differences from placebo. Cognitive deficits caused by scopolamine were in the areas of new learning, access to semantic memory, vigilance, and continuous performance. Behavioral effects consisted of activation, restlessness, and anxiety, but there was no significant effect on depressed mood. These results suggest that elderly depressed patients with mild to moderate cognitive impairment seem to be more similar to previously studied elderly controls rather than to patients with Alzheimer's disease in their reaction to short-term cholinergic blockade, and suggest that the cognitive and mood changes often seen in geriatric depression may involve factors other than disturbed muscarinic cholinergic mechanisms.

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