The term neuroenhancement refers to improvement in the cognitive, emotional and motivational functions of healthy individuals through, inter alia, the use of drugs. Of known interventions, psychopharmacology provides readily available options, such as methylphenidate and modafinil. Both drugs are presumed to be in widespread use as cognitive enhancers for non-medical reasons. Based on a systematic review and meta-analysis we show that expectations regarding the effectiveness of these drugs exceed their actual effects, as has been demonstrated in single- or double-blind randomised controlled trials. Only studies with sufficient extractable data were included in the statistical analyses. For methylphenidate an improvement of memory was found, but no consistent evidence for other enhancing effects was uncovered. Modafinil on the other hand, was found to improve attention for well-rested individuals, while maintaining wakefulness, memory and executive functions to a significantly higher degree in sleep deprived individuals than did a placebo. However, repeated doses of modafinil were unable to prevent deterioration of cognitive performance over a longer period of sleep deprivation though maintaining wakefulness and possibly even inducing overconfidence in a person's own cognitive performance.
Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.