This study is based on the hypothesis of a paraventricular cerebral noradrenaline deficit in alcoholic Korsakoff's syndrome. In a randomized open study the effects of a 4-week treatment with the selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor reboxetine on (1) the salivary concentration of the noradrenaline metabolite MHPG and (2) changes in cognitive performance measured by the Mini Mental Status Test were examined. The study group consisted of 105 patients diagnosed with alcohol-related Korsakoff's syndrome (ICD-10: F10.6). Korsakoff's patients showed a reduced concentration of salivary MHPG compared to healthy controls; this reduction did not correlate with the results of the Mini Mental Status Test. An increase in salivary MHPG was found together with an improvement in the Mini Mental Status Test both in the verum group treated with reboxetine and in the control group upon completion of the 4-week study. However, a subgroup with a shorter duration of disease (<1 year) was found to profit significantly from reboxetine treatment, as shown by improvements in cognitive performance.