Test anxiety is severely disabling to students whose fear of examinations causes cognitive dysfunction that paralyzes their thinking the way stage fright impairs actors ability to act. In studies using subjective evaluations among actors and musicians, beta-blockade relieved stage fright and has been used informally to treat test anxiety in students without objective measures of effectiveness. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was chosen as an objective test instrument to confirm the effect of beta-blockade on test anxiety and performance. Thirty-two high school students who had already taken the SAT before enrolling in this study and who had stress-induced cognitive dysfunction on exams were given 40 mg of propranolol one hour before they retook those tests. Mean SAT scores with beta-blockade were 130 points higher than on the initial SAT done before entering the study without medication (p = less than .01). A single dose of propranolol immediately before the SAT permitted improved performance in students prone to cognitive dysfunction due to test anxiety.
The effect of beta blockade on stress-induced cognitive dysfunction in adolescents.