Non-specific effects of methylphenidate (Ritalin) on cognitive ability and decision-making of ADHD and healthy adults

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2010 Jul;210(4):511-9. doi: 10.1007/s00213-010-1853-4. Epub 2010 Apr 28.


Introduction: The effect of a single dose of methylphenidate (MPH) on cognitive measures and decision-making processes was assessed in a sample of adults with ADHD and in a control sample.

Methods: Thirty-two adults satisfying DSM-IV criteria for ADHD and 26 healthy controls performed several cognitive tasks. Half of the participants received MPH prior to performing the tasks, and the other half received placebo in a randomized, double-blind manner.

Results: The average digit-span test score was higher in the groups receiving MPH compared to the groups receiving placebo, while diagnosis did not have an effect upon scores. In decision-making tasks, however, MPH did not have an effect upon performance, whereas in one of the tasks the average proportion of risky choices was higher in ADHD adults compared to controls.

Conclusion: Our data therefore demonstrates that (a) MPH is capable of enhancing specific aspects of cognitive performance and (b) this enhancement is not specific to ADHD.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Decision Making / drug effects*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / pharmacology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Placebos


  • Placebos
  • Methylphenidate