Effects of modafinil on non-verbal cognition, task enjoyment and creative thinking in healthy volunteers

Neuropharmacology. 2013 Jan;64(5):490-5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.07.009. Epub 2012 Jul 20.


Background: Modafinil, a putative cognitive enhancing drug, has previously been shown to improve performance of healthy volunteers as well as patients with attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia, mainly in tests of executive functions. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of modafinil on non-verbal cognitive functions in healthy volunteers, with a particular focus on variations of cognitive load, measures of motivational factors and the effects on creative problem-solving.

Methods: A double-blind placebo-controlled parallel design study evaluated the effect of 200 mg of modafinil (N = 32) or placebo (N = 32) in non-sleep deprived healthy volunteers. Non-verbal tests of divergent and convergent thinking were used to measure creativity. A new measure of task motivation was used, together with more levels of difficulty on neuropsychological tests from the CANTAB battery.

Results: Improvements under modafinil were seen on spatial working memory, planning and decision making at the most difficult levels, as well as visual pattern recognition memory following delay. Subjective ratings of enjoyment of task performance were significantly greater under modafinil compared with placebo, but mood ratings overall were not affected. The effects of modafinil on creativity were inconsistent and did not reach statistical significance.

Conclusions: Modafinil reliably enhanced task enjoyment and performance on several cognitive tests of planning and working memory, but did not improve paired associates learning. The findings confirm that modafinil can enhance aspects of highly demanding cognitive performance in non-sleep deprived individuals. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Cognitive Enhancers'.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / adverse effects
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Creativity*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Executive Function / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects
  • Modafinil
  • Motivation / drug effects
  • Nootropic Agents / adverse effects
  • Nootropic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / drug effects
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / adverse effects
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / pharmacology*
  • Pleasure / drug effects*
  • Problem Solving / drug effects
  • Spatial Behavior / drug effects
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Thinking / drug effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Nootropic Agents
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances
  • Modafinil