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Medwave. 2015 Jun 30;15(5):e6166. doi: 10.5867/medwave.2015.05.6166.

Effects of modafinil on attention performance, short-term memory and executive function in university students: a randomized trial.

[Article in English, Spanish; Abstract available in Spanish from the publisher]

Author information

Escuela de Psicología, Universidad de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile; Address: Hontaneda 2664, Edificio Dr. Bruno Gunther Schaffeld, Valparaíso, Chile. Email:
Escuela de Salud Pública, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
Escuela de Psicología, Universidad de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile.
Escuela de Medicina, Universidad de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile.
Iberoamerican Cochrane Centre, Barcelona, Spain; Centro de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Escuela de Medicina, Universidad de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile; Departamento de Salud Pública Escuela de Medicina Universidad de Valparaìso , Valparaiso, Chile.


in English, Spanish


Modafinil is a drug developed and used for the treatment of excessive lethargy. Even though very effective for sleep disorders, it is still controversial whether modafinil can improve performance in high-order cognitive processes such as memory and executive function.


This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial was designed to evaluate the effect of modafinil (compared to placebo) on the cognitive functions of healthy students. 160 volunteers were recruited and allocated randomly to modafinil or placebo group, and were assessed using the Stroop Test, BCET test and Digit span test.


We found a significant difference in favor of modafinil compared to placebo in the proportion of correct answers of Stroop Test in congruent situation. A significant shorter latency of modafinil group in the incongruent situation of Stroop test was also found. No differences were found in Digit Span, or BCET tests.


The study demonstrated that modafinil does not enhance the global cognitive performance of healthy non-sleep deprived students, except regarding non-demanding tasks. In particular, this drug does not seem to have positive effects on mental processes that sustain studying tasks in the college population under normal conditions. We expect these findings to demystify the use of this drug and help decision making concerning pharmacological public policies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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