Objectives: To determine the effect of a single dose of methylphenidate on the cognitive performance of patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI), and particularly on working memory and visuospatial attention.
Design: A double-blind placebo-controlled study. The subjects were randomly divided into an experimental group taking methylphenidate and a control group taking a placebo.
Setting: The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine of a university hospital.
Subjects: Eighteen subjects with TBI (16 male and two female) were enrolled.
Interventions: The patients were given 20 mg methylphenidate or a placebo. Cognitive assessments were performed at three times: before the medication as a baseline, 2 h after medication and at follow-up (48 h later).
Main measures: Cognitive assessments consisted of working memory tasks and endogenous visuospatial attention tasks designed using SuperLabPro 2.0 software. Response accuracy and reaction time were measured.
Results: There were significant improvements in response accuracy in the methylphenidate group compared with the placebo group for both the working memory and visuospatial attention tasks. A significant decrease in the reaction time was also observed in the methylphenidate group only for the working memory task.
Conclusions: The administration of single-dose methylphenidate has an effect in improving cognitive functioning following a TBI. The effects were most prominent regarding the reaction time of the working memory.