Central thalamus regulates forebrain arousal, influencing activity in distributed neural networks that give rise to organized actions during alert, wakeful states. Central thalamus has been implicated in working memory by the effects of lesions and microinjected drugs in this part of the brain. Lesions and drugs that inhibit neural activity have been found to impair working memory. Drugs that increase activity have been found to enhance and impair memory depending on the dose tested. Electrical deep brain stimulation (DBS) similarly enhances working memory at low stimulating currents and impairs it at higher currents. These effects are time dependent. They were observed when DBS was applied during the memory delay (retention) or choice response (retrieval) but not earlier in trials during the sample (acquisition) phase. The effects of microinjected drugs and DBS are consistent with the Yerkes-Dodson law, which describes an inverted-U relationship between arousal and behavioral performance. Alternatively these results may reflect desensitization associated with higher levels of stimulation, spread of drugs or current to adjacent structures, or activation of less sensitive neurons or receptors at higher DBS currents or drug doses.