ADHD drugs do not improve cognition in healthy college students (ScienceDaily):
“Contrary to popular belief across college campuses, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications may fail to improve cognition in healthy students and actually can impair functioning, according to a study by researchers at the University of Rhode Island and Brown University.
Study co-investigators Lisa Weyandt, professor of psychology and a faculty member with URI’s George and Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience, and Tara White, assistant professor of research in behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, had anticipated different findings. “We hypothesized that Adderall would enhance cognition in the healthy students, but instead, the medication did not improve reading comprehension or fluency, and it impaired working memory,” she said. “Not only are they not benefiting from it academically, but it could be negatively affecting their performance.” …
In contrast to the small, mixed effects on cognition, the drug had much larger effects on mood and bodily responses, increasing positive mood, emotional ratings of the drug effect, heart rate and blood pressure. “These are classic effects of psychostimulants,” said White. “The fact that we see these effects on positive emotion and cardiovascular activity, in the same individuals for whom cognitive effects were small or negative in direction, is important. It indicates that the cognitive and the emotional impact of these drugs are separate. How you feel under the drug does not necessarily mean that there is an improvement in cognition; there can be a decrease, as seen here in young adults without ADHD.”
Neurocognitive, Autonomic, and Mood Effects of Adderall: A Pilot Study of Healthy College Students (Pharmacy).
- Abstract: Prescription stimulant medications are considered a safe and long-term effective treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Studies support that stimulants enhance attention, memory, self-regulation and executive function in individuals with ADHD. Recent research, however, has found that many college students without ADHD report misusing prescription stimulants, primarily to enhance their cognitive abilities. This practice raises the question whether stimulants actually enhance cognitive functioning in college students without ADHD. We investigated the effects of mixed-salts amphetamine (i.e., Adderall, 30 mg) on cognitive, autonomic and emotional functioning in a pilot sample of healthy college students without ADHD (n = 13), using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects design. The present study was the first to explore cognitive effects in conjunction with mood, autonomic effects, and self-perceptions of cognitive enhancement. Results revealed that Adderall had minimal, but mixed, effects on cognitive processes relevant to neurocognitive enhancement (small effects), and substantial effects on autonomic responses, subjective drug experiences, and positive states of activated emotion (large effects)…
The Study in Context:
- Growing awareness of the opportunities and risks posed by pharmacological cognitive enhancement (aka “smart drugs”)
- 10 neurotechnologies about to transform brain enhancement and brain health
- Trend: Consumers experiment with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) with no regulatory oversight
- 20 Must-Know Facts to Harness Neuroplasticity and Improve Brain Health
- What are cognitive abilities and how to boost them?
- Five reasons the future of brain enhancement is digital, pervasive and (hopefully) bright