Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

ADHD drug may help preserve self-control resources

Date:
April 23, 2014
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Methylphenidate, also known as Ritalin, may prevent the depletion of self-control, according to research. Self-control can be difficult -- sticking with a diet or trying to focus attention on a boring textbook are hard things to do. Considerable research suggests one potential explanation for this difficulty: Exerting self-control for a long period seems to "deplete" our ability to exert self-control effectively on subsequent tasks.

Methylphenidate, also known as Ritalin, may prevent the depletion of self-control, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Related Articles


Self-control can be difficult -- sticking with a diet or trying to focus attention on a boring textbook are hard things to do. Considerable research suggests one potential explanation for this difficulty: Exerting self-control for a long period seems to "deplete" our ability to exert self-control effectively on subsequent tasks.

"It is as if self-control is a limited resource that 'runs out' if it is used too much," says lead researcher Chandra Sripada of the University of Michigan. "If we could figure out the brain mechanisms that cause regulatory depletion, then maybe we could find a way to prevent it."

Previous research has implicated the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in regulatory processing. Sripada and University of Michigan collaborators Daniel Kessler and John Jonides decided to see whether manipulating levels of these transmitters might affect regulatory depletion.

The researchers tested 108 adult participants, all of whom took a drug capsule 60 minutes prior to testing. Half of the participants received a capsule that contained methylphenidate, a medication used to treat ADHD that increases brain dopamine and norepinephrine. The other half received a placebo capsule. The study was double-blind, so neither the participants nor the researchers knew at the time of testing who had received which capsule.

The participants then completed a computer-based task in which they were required to press a button when a word containing the letter e appeared on screen. Some were given modified instructions that asked them to refrain from pressing the button if the letter e was next to or one extra letter away from another vowel -- this version of the task was designed to tax participants' self-control.

All of the participants then completed a second computer task aimed at testing their ability to process competing information and exert regulatory control in order to make a correct response.

In line with the researchers' hypotheses, participants who received the placebo and performed the taxing version of the first task showed greater variability in how quickly they responded in the second task, compared to those whose self-control hadn't been depleted in the first task.

But for those participants who took the methylphenidate capsule, the first task didn't have an effect on later performance -- the methylphenidate seemed to counteract the self-regulatory depletion incurred by the harder version of the first task.

"These results indicate that depletion of self-control due to prior effort can be fully blocked pharmacologically," says Sripada. "The task we give people to deplete their self-control is pretty cognitively demanding, so we were surprised at how effective methylphenidate was in blocking depletion of self-control."

Sripada and colleagues suggest that methylphenidate may help to boost performance of the specific circuits in the brain's prefrontal cortex that are normally compromised after sustained exertion of self-control.

This doesn't mean, however, that those of us looking to boost our self-control should go out and get some Ritalin:

"Methylphenidate is a powerful psychotropic medicine that should only be taken with a prescription," says Sripada. "We want to use this research to better understand the brain mechanisms that lead to depletion of self-control, and what interventions -- pharmacological or behavioral -- might prevent this."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. Sripada, D. Kessler, J. Jonides. Methylphenidate Blocks Effort-Induced Depletion of Regulatory Control in Healthy Volunteers. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797614526415

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "ADHD drug may help preserve self-control resources." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423102133.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2014, April 23). ADHD drug may help preserve self-control resources. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423102133.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "ADHD drug may help preserve self-control resources." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423102133.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins