Paradoxical Fear-Increasing Effects of Tranquilizers: Evidence of Repression of Memory in the Rat

Science  10 Oct 1969:
Vol. 166, Issue 3902, pp. 253-256
DOI: 10.1126/science.166.3902.253


Conditioned suppression of feeding, an index of fear, was increased rather than decreased by the administration of benzodiazepine tranquilizers or amobarbital. The drug-induced increase in conditioned fear varied directly with the intensity of the shock used in fear conditioning. The drugs had no fear-increasing effect in unshocked controls or in rats made amnesic by electroconvulsive shock given immediately after fear conditioning. These observations in animals are reminiscent of clinical reports that intraveneous amobarbital facilitates the recall of repressed traumatic experiences. The retrieval of painful memories may be inhibited or repressed in animals as well as in humans. In both cases, tranquilizers may counteract repression by disinhibition of the act of retrieval.