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J Psychopharmacol. 2012 Nov;26(11):1471-9. doi: 10.1177/0269881112446531. Epub 2012 May 14.

Effects of methylphenidate on basic and higher-order oculomotor functions.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.


Eye movements are sensitive indicators of pharmacological effects on sensorimotor and cognitive processing. Methylphenidate (MPH) is one of the most prescribed medications in psychiatry. It is increasingly used as a cognitive enhancer by healthy individuals. However, little is known of its effect on healthy cognition. Here we used oculomotor tests to evaluate the effects of MPH on basic oculomotor and executive functions. Twenty-nine males were given 20mg of MPH orally in a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover design. Participants performed visually-guided saccades, sinusoidal smooth pursuit, predictive saccades and antisaccades one hour post-capsule administration. Heart rate and blood pressure were assessed prior to capsule administration, and again before and after task performance. Visually-guided saccade latency decreased with MPH (p<0.004). Smooth pursuit gain increased on MPH (p<0.001) and number of saccades during pursuit decreased (p<0.001). Proportion of predictive saccades increased on MPH (p<0.004), specifically in conditions with predictable timing. Peak velocity of predictive saccades increased with MPH (p<0.01). Antisaccade errors and latency were unaffected. Physiological variables were also unaffected. The effects on visually-guided saccade latency and peak velocity are consistent with MPH effects on dopamine in basal ganglia. The improvements in predictive saccade conditions and smooth pursuit suggest effects on timing functions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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