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What are the cognitive effects of stimulant medications? Emphasis on adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

What are the cognitive effects of stimulant medications? Emphasis on adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 34(8): 1256-1266

The relevant literature concerning cognitive effects of amphetamine and methylphenidate, was reviewed, with an emphasis on research conducted in adults diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. As first-line treatment for ADHD, stimulant drugs are well-known to improve attention and concentration. Yet, there is increasing evidence that (as with children and adolescents), they do not promote learning and academic achievement in adult college students with ADHD. A review of neuropsychological studies indicates that, although response latencies are reduced, performance of ADHD adults on tests of 'distractibility' and 'planning' is also not consistently improved by stimulants. Studies in non-ADHD adults suggest that stimulants do not promote acquisition of new information, might improve retention of previously acquired information, and facilitate memory consolidation, but may actually impair performance of tasks that require adaptation, flexibility and planning. It is still not clear if improvement only occurs when there is a baseline deficit. Stimulants may influence cognition by their effects on physiological arousal. Regardless, the evidence does not support the conclusion that stimulants are cognitive 'enhancers.'

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Accession: 056915174

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PMID: 20381522

DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.03.006

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