Effects of Methylphenidate on Memory and Attention in Healthy Adults


  • Nadine Jansen


Methylphenidate, attention, memory


Methylphenidate (MPH) is the most prescribed medicinal drug for people diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. However, the off-label use by healthy adults has increased over the last year due to the potential beneficial effects on cognitive performance. It causes augmented catecholaminergic neurotransmission by blocking dopamine and norepinephrine’s reuptake mainly in prefrontal cortex and striatum. The aim of this review was to examine the effects of MPH on memory and attention in healthy adults. The results were ambiguous, however, MPH’s beneficial effects on memory were found more consistently than effects on attention. In addition, individuals whose baseline performance was lower than average benefitted more than others. Optimal dosing seems to be dependent on the task and cognitive domain tested. The controversy about cognitive enhancing drugs arises when taking side effects, as well as ethical aspects, into consideration. Common adverse effects are insomnia and appetite loss. In conclusion, despite the positive effects of MPH on memory and attention, the use of MPH as cognitive enhancer in healthy adults is not recommended based on the lack of longitudinal studies and the risks of adverse effects. MPH self-medication is not recommended.