Effects on Learning and Memory Functions of Different Doses of ADHD Medication

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison provided answers on how ADHD drug methylphenidate (Ritalin) may affect the children’s memory and learning capabilities. Findings of the study suggest that ADHD stimulant drugs given in higher doses may actually weaken working memory.

As a parent of a child with ADHD who has eliminated sleep problems or no longer wrings hands as a result of taking medications, this study will make you wonder on what the treatment consequence is between hyperactivity and basic function.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison study performed studies on three monkeys that were given varying doses of methylphenidate (Ritalin). The monkeys were trained to focus at a target “dot” on a computer screen while another passed quickly.

Researchers found out that lower doses of the Ritalin apparently boosted the monkey’s ability to learn and higher doses negatively affected the monkey’s working memory and learning capability. Hyperactivity symptoms were reduced. Researchers said the monkeys given the higher doses continued with the task, but they kept making the same mistakes.

Checking if Ritalin medication enhanced the working memory at low doses, researchers were surprised to find out that there was no effect. The monkeys that were given low dose of medication did not show any memory enhancement while the ones given the higher medication dose performed worse than those with lower doses. Luis Populin, PhD, head author of the study and Bradley Postle, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin, explained that the medication Ritalin or methylphenidate has effects on the brain’s executive function. The drug can create an environment in the brain that will facilitate memory retention and formation, depending on the dose. From the study findings, it was discovered that a lower dose of the medication assisted in creating the conditions for success without really improving the memory function at all.

Dr. Populin highlighted the findings that the right dose of ADHD medications is vital for both the adult and the children afflicted with the disorder. Doctors should be aware that subjecting the patients to higher doses of medication may eventually compromise the cognitive ability of the patient. It s therefore critical that the parent discusses the medication dose level of their child with ADHD, with the doctor to make sure that he or she is not given higher doses of the ADHD drug or medication as it may cause problems with the kid’s academic performance.

The findings of this research is aligned with the findings of a 1977 research which showed that a low dose of ADHD drug boosted the child’s cognitive performance and a higher dose lessened their hyperactivity symptoms and negatively affected their memory test performance.

The University of Madison study on the monkeys was published in the Cognitive Neuroscience Journal.