ADHD Drugs Do Not Improve Cognition in Healthy Students

Posted on July 21, 2018

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. Results of the new study show that the standard 30 mg dose of Adderall, a prescription stimulant, did improve attention and focus -- a typical result from a stimulant -- but that effect failed to translate to better performance on a battery of neurocognitive tasks that measured short-term memory, reading comprehension and fluency.

Brain scan research shows that a person with ADHD often has less neural activity in the regions of the brain that control executive function -- working memory, attention, self-control. For people with ADHD, Adderall and similar medications increase activity in those regions and appear to normalize functioning. In other words, If your brain is functioning normally in those regions, the medication is unlikely to have a positive effect on cognition and might actually impair cognition. Therefore, you need to have a deficit to benefit from the medicine.

Participants in the study also reported their perceived effects of the drug and its impact on their emotions, with students reporting significant elevation of their mood when taking Adderall. 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.

The physical effects from the drugs, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, were expected, and underscored the difference with cognition. Researchers stressed, however, that the findings are based on a pilot study and need to be replicated with a substantially larger sample of college students.

Category(s):Adult ADHD

Source material from Science Daily

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