Selective Performance Effects of Nitrous Oxide
NAVY MEDICAL NEUROPSYCHIATRIC RESEARCH UNIT SAN DIEGO CA
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Twenty-one U.S. Navy divers were given several standard visual tests, the Purdue Pegboard, the Bennett Hand Tool Dexterity Test, and the Wechsler Memory Scale while breathing air or 30 nitrous oxide. The results showed that visual function, fine and gross motor performance, and long-term memory were normal under nitrous oxide, while learning and short-term memory were significantly impaired. The subjective effects of breathing nitrous oxide were similar to those experienced during compressed air narcosis. The selective impairment of short-term memory suggests that divers might be able to perform useful work at depths deeper than those currently authorized, provided the tasks were well learned and practiced.