Levodopa enhances explicit new-word learning in healthy adults: a preliminary study

Leanne R Shellshear, Anna D MacDonald, Jeffrey Mahoney, Emma Finch, Katie L McMahon, Peter A Silburn, Pradeep Jonathan Nathan, David A Copland

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Objective While the role of dopamine in modulating executive function, working memory and associative learning has been established; its role in word learning and language processing more generally is not clear. This preliminary study investigated the impact of increased synaptic dopamine levels on new-word learning ability in healthy young adults using an explicit learning paradigm. Method A double-blind, placebo-controlled, between-groups design was used. Participants completed five learning sessions over 1 week with levodopa or placebo administered at each session (five doses, 100 mg). Each session involved a study phase followed by a test phase. Test phases involved recall and recognition tests of the new (non-word) names previously paired with unfamiliar objects (half with semantic descriptions) during the study phase. Results The levodopa group showed superior recall accuracy for new words over five learning sessions compared with the placebo group and better recognition accuracy at a 1-month follow-up for words learnt with a semantic description. Conclusions These findings suggest that dopamine boosts initial lexical acquisition and enhances longer-term consolidation of words learnt with semantic information, consistent with dopaminergic enhancement of semantic salience
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341 - 349
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Cite this

Shellshear, L. R., MacDonald, A. D., Mahoney, J., Finch, E., McMahon, K. L., Silburn, P. A., Nathan, P. J., & Copland, D. A. (2015). Levodopa enhances explicit new-word learning in healthy adults: a preliminary study. Human Psychopharmacology, 30(5), 341 - 349. https://doi.org/10.1002/hup.2480