Methylphenidate-Related Improvements in Math Performance Cannot Be Explained by Better Cognitive Functioning or Higher Academic Motivation: Evidence From a Randomized Controlled Trial

Anne Fleur Kortekaas-Rijlaarsdam*, Marjolein Luman, Edmund Sonuga-Barke, Pierre Bet, Jaap Oosterlaan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: This study investigated whether improvements in working memory, reaction time, lapses of attention, interference control, academic motivation, and perceived competence mediated effects of methylphenidate on math performance.

METHOD: Sixty-three children (ADHD diagnosis; methylphenidate treatment; age 8-13; IQ > 70) were randomly allocated to a 7-day methylphenidate or placebo treatment in this double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study and compared with 67 controls. Data were collected at schools and analyzed using mixed-model analysis. Methylphenidate was hypothesized to improve all measures; all measures were evaluated as potential mediators of methylphenidate-related math improvements.

RESULTS: Controls mostly outperformed the ADHD group. Methylphenidate did not affect measures of cognitive functioning ( p = .082-.641) or academic motivation ( p = .199-.865). Methylphenidate improved parent ratings of their child's self-perceived competence ( p < .01), which mediated methylphenidate efficacy on math productivity.

CONCLUSION: These results question the necessity of improvements in specific cognitive and motivational deficits associated with ADHD for medication-related academic improvement. They also stimulate further study of perceived competence as a mediator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1824-1835
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Attention Disorders
Volume24
Issue number13
Early online date13 Jun 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jun 2017

Keywords

  • academic performance
  • ADD/ADHD
  • cognition
  • competence
  • methylphenidate

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