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Think twice before taking Aderall for cognitive enhancement: It may actually impair working memory and other cognitive abilities

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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.”

The Study:

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:

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Categories: Attention and ADD/ADHD, Cognitive Neuroscience, Health & Wellness

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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