Background: Atomoxetine, a highly selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), shows efficacy in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Compared with psychostimulants, atomoxetine has a distinct mode of brain action and potentially lower addictive potential. Studies have yet to assess whether atomoxetine improves cognition following a single oral dose in ADHD.
Methods: Twenty-two adults with DSM-IV ADHD were administered a single oral dose of atomoxetine (60 mg) in a placebo-controlled double-blind crossover design. Cognitive effects were assessed using stop-signal, sustained attention, spatial working memory, and set-shifting paradigms. Normative cognitive data from 20 healthy volunteers were collected for comparison.
Results: The ADHD patients under placebo conditions showed response inhibition and working memory deficits compared with healthy volunteers. Atomoxetine treatment in the ADHD patients was associated with shorter stop-signal reaction times and lower numbers of commission errors on the sustained attention task.
Conclusions: Atomoxetine improved inhibitory control, most likely via noradrenergically mediated augmentation of prefrontal cortex function. These results have implications for understanding the mechanisms by which atomoxetine exerts beneficial clinical effects and suggest novel treatment directions for other disorders of impulsivity.