MAR 12, 2020 8:09 PM PDT

Brain Stimulants Help with Focus

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Drugs like Ritalin, Adderall and similar medications have been assumed by the public as fuels to help people focus. But, how exactly do they work?

Now, a new study led by Brown University researchers indicates that these medications push the brain to fix its attention on the ‘benefits’ rather than the ‘costs’ of completing challenging assignments through work.

"People tend to think, 'Ritalin and Adderall help me focus,'" said Michael Frank, the study's co-senior author and a professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown. "And they do, in some sense. But what this study shows is that they do so by increasing your cognitive motivation: Your perceived benefits of performing a demanding task are elevated, while the perceived costs are reduced. This effect is separate from any changes in actual ability."

Findings were published in the journal Science and shows for the first time how Ritalin (as well as other stimulants) alter cognitive function. The study could advance new treatment options for individuals with ADHD and wide range of mental disorders.

"We've known for a long time that when you give people these types of stimulants, you get enhanced performance," says Brown University’s postdoctoral researcher and study lead author, Andrew Westbrook. "But is that due to an increased ability, or is it due to increased motivation? We didn't know which of these two factors were contributing and to what degree."

Ritalin increases dopamine—the brains chemical messenger involved in motivation and reward (also known as the ‘Happy Hormone’).

Learn more about the brain’s reward system:

"The thoughts that pop into our head, and the amount of time we spend thinking about them, are regulated by this underlying cost-benefit decision-making system," Westbrook said. "Our brains have been honed to orient us toward the tasks that will have the greatest payoff and the least cost over time."

Source: Science Daily

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
You May Also Like
JUL 21, 2020
Cardiology
Investigating New Anti-Blood Clotting Treatments
JUL 21, 2020
Investigating New Anti-Blood Clotting Treatments
When it comes to your cardiovascular health, it is important to look at more than just your heart. The cardiovascular sy ...
JUL 29, 2020
Cancer
Regulating Apoptosis in Prostate Cancer
JUL 29, 2020
Regulating Apoptosis in Prostate Cancer
Cancer treatments tend to work in one of a few ways. They can target the immune system, prevent cancer proliferation and ...
AUG 24, 2020
Immunology
Injectable Drug Stops HIV From Entering Cells
AUG 24, 2020
Injectable Drug Stops HIV From Entering Cells
Once in the body, HIV tracks down T cells that bear the CD4 receptor. It attaches to these immune cells, fusing itself w ...
AUG 12, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Fast Tracking Drug Therapies
AUG 12, 2020
Fast Tracking Drug Therapies
Fast-tracking drugs in a safe and effective way can eventually save the lives of many from life-threatening diseases. Ne ...
AUG 17, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
How Do Drugs Treat Parasitic Infections?
AUG 17, 2020
How Do Drugs Treat Parasitic Infections?
How Do Medications Deal With Parasitic Infections? Researchers have been curious to know how a common medication battles ...
AUG 25, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
The Potential of Antivitamins
AUG 25, 2020
The Potential of Antivitamins
What exactly are antivitamins? They are substances no less that have the power to target the biological function of a ge ...
Loading Comments...