Background: Animal models and human studies have identified the potential of modafinil as a cognitive enhancing agent, independent of its effects on promoting wakefulness in sleep-deprived samples. Given that single-dose applications of other putative memory enhancers (eg, D-cycloserine, yohimbine, and methylene blue) have shown success in enhancing clinical outcomes for anxiety-related disorders, we conducted a meta-analytic review examining the potential for single-dose effects for modafinil on cognitive functioning in non-sleep-deprived adults.
Methods: A total of 19 placebo-controlled trials that examined the effects of single-dose modafinil versus placebo on the cognitive domains of attention, executive functioning, memory, or processing speed were identified, allowing for the calculation of 67 cognitive domain-specific effect sizes.
Results: The overall positive effect of modafinil over placebo across all cognitive domains was small and significant (g = 0.10; 95% confidence interval, 0.05-0.15; P < 0.001). No significant differences between cognitive domains were found. Likewise, no significant moderation was found for modafinil dose (100 mg vs 200 mg) or for the populations studied (psychiatric vs nonpsychiatric).
Conclusions: In conclusion, the available evidence indicates only limited potential for modafinil to act as a cognitive enhancer outside sleep-deprived populations.