The Truth about Ritalin: Brain Doping and Its Limited Impact on Intelligence

Brain doping with Ritalin does not make you so smart

A recent study published in the journal “Science Advances” has found that prescription psychostimulants such as Ritalin, dextroamphetamine, and modafinil do not have performance-enhancing effects. In fact, the study revealed that participants performed better in tests when they only took a placebo. The study leader, Elizabeth Bowman from the University of Melbourne, stated that these drugs actually make users work harder, but the quality of their work decreases and it takes longer.

The study involved 40 subjects between the ages of 18 and 35 who had to solve the “backpack problem” in different variations. The goal was to put together objects of different weight and value for a virtual backpack, ensuring that it had the greatest possible total value without exceeding a specified weight. Each participant completed the tests four times, taking one of the three drugs or a placebo in each round.

Overall, the study found that the value achieved with a backpack, indicating the quality of the problem solution, was generally lower when participants took a stimulant. The effect was even more pronounced for participants who performed well without a placebo, as they fell into the bottom 25 percent group when they took a stimulant. Some participants who performed poorly without the stimulant did experience a slight improvement in their performance with the drugs.

While the drugs did increase the test subjects’ motivation, as indicated by the high number of tests and time expended, the researchers found that the increased effort led to more erratic thinking. The complexity of the test used in this study sets it apart from typical laboratory tests, which focus on reaction times.

This study confirms previous research that also found no performance-enhancing effects of these drugs. It is worth noting that the type of test being conducted can affect the results, as shown by an eleven-year-old study on overtired surgeons using Modafinil. In that study, the drug had positive effects on decision-making and working memory in a simulator test but not in neuropsychological tests.

While prescription psychostimulants such as Ritalin may have side effects, this new study should make people reconsider their use for cognitive enhancement. It suggests that these drugs do not make individuals smarter than they are, but rather increase motivation and lead to more erratic thinking. Further research is needed to fully understand the effects of these drugs on cognitive performance.

Leave a Reply