Date of Original Version
Increasing numbers of adults, particularly college students, are misusing prescription stimulants primarily for cognitive/academic enhancement, so it is critical to explore whether empirical findings support neurocognitive benefits of prescription stimulants. Previous meta-analytic studies have supported small benefits from prescription stimulants for the cognitive domains of inhibitory control and memory; however, no meta-analytic studies have examined the effects on processing speed or the potential impairment on other domains of cognition, including planning, decision-making, and cognitive perseveration. Therefore, the present study conducted a meta-analysis of the available literature examining the effects of prescription stimulants on specific measures of processing speed, planning, decision-making, and cognitive perseveration among healthy adult populations. The meta-analysis results indicated a positive influence of prescription stimulant medication on processing speed accuracy, with an overall mean effect size of g = 0.282 (95% CI [0.077, 0.488]; n = 345). Neither improvements nor impairments were revealed for planning time, planning accuracy, advantageous decision-making, or cognitive perseveration; however, findings are limited by the small number of studies examining these outcomes. Findings support that prescription stimulant medication may indeed act as a neurocognitive enhancer for accuracy measures of processing speed without impeding other areas of cognition. Considering that adults are already engaging in illegal use of prescription stimulants for academic enhancement, as well as the potential for stimulant misuse to have serious side effects, the establishment of public policies informed by interdisciplinary research surrounding this issue, whether restrictive or liberal, is of critical importance.
Marraccini, M. E., Weyandt, L. L., Rossi, J. S., & Gudmundsdottir, B. G. (2016). Neurocognitive enhancement or impairment? A systematic meta-analysis of prescription stimulant effects on processing speed, decision-making, planning, and cognitive perseveration. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 24(4), 269-284. doi: 10.1037/pha0000079
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pha0000079