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Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2009 Oct;17(5):291-301. doi: 10.1037/a0017259.

Effects of methylphenidate on discounting of delayed rewards in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, USA.


Impulsivity is a central component of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Delay discounting, or a preference for smaller, immediate rewards over larger, delayed rewards, is considered an important aspect of impulsivity, and delay-related impulsivity has been emphasized in etiological models of ADHD. In this study, we examined whether stimulant medication, an effective treatment for ADHD, reduced discounting of delayed experiential and hypothetical rewards among 49 children (ages 9-12 years) with ADHD. After a practice day, participants completed a 3-day double-blind placebo-controlled acute medication assessment. Active doses were long-acting methylphenidate (Concerta), with the nearest equivalents of 0.3 and 0.6 mg/kg TID immediate-release methylphenidate. On each testing day, participants completed experiential (real-world money in real time) and hypothetical discounting tasks. Relative to placebo, methylphenidate reduced discounting of delayed experiential rewards but not hypothetical rewards. Broadly consistent with etiological models that emphasize delay-related impulsivity among children with ADHD, these findings provide initial evidence that stimulant medication reduces delay discounting among those with the disorder. The results also draw attention to task parameters that may influence the sensitivity of various delay discounting measures to medication effects.

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