Methylphenidate produces selective enhancement of declarative memory consolidation in healthy volunteers

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Jun;221(4):611-9. doi: 10.1007/s00213-011-2605-9. Epub 2011 Dec 15.


Rationale: Methylphenidate inhibits the reuptake of dopamine and noradrenaline and is used to treat children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Besides reducing behavioral symptoms, it improves their cognitive function. There are also observations of methylphenidate-induced cognition enhancement in healthy adults, although studies in this area are relatively sparse. We assessed the possible memory-enhancing properties of methylphenidate.

Objective: In the current study, the possible enhancing effects of three doses of methylphenidate on declarative and working memory, attention, response inhibition and planning were investigated in healthy volunteers.

Methods: In a double blind placebo-controlled crossover study, 19 healthy young male volunteers were tested after a single dose of placebo or 10, 20 or 40 mg of methylphenidate. Cognitive performance testing included a word learning test as a measure of declarative memory, a spatial working memory test, a set-shifting test, a stop signal test and a computerized version of the Tower of London planning test.

Results: Declarative memory consolidation was significantly improved relative to placebo after 20 and 40 mg of methylphenidate. Methylphenidate also improved set shifting and stopped signal task performance but did not affect spatial working memory or planning.

Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study reporting enhanced declarative memory consolidation after methylphenidate in a dose-related fashion over a dose range that is presumed to reflect a wide range of dopamine reuptake inhibition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects
  • Methylphenidate / administration & dosage
  • Methylphenidate / pharmacology*
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Methylphenidate