Methylphenidate-Related Improvements in Math Performance Cannot Be Explained by Better Cognitive Functioning or Higher Academic Motivation: Evidence From a Randomized Controlled Trial

Anne Fleur Kortekaas-Rijlaarsdam, Marjolein Luman, Edmund Sonuga-Barke, Pierre Bet, Jaap Oosterlaan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This study investigated whether improvements in working memory, reaction time, lapses of attention, interference control, academic motivation, and perceived competence mediated effects of methylphenidate on math performance. Method: Sixty-three children (ADHD diagnosis; methylphenidate treatment; age 8-13; IQ > 70) were randomly allocated to a 7-day methylphenidate or placebo treatment in this double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study and compared with 67 controls. Data were collected at schools and analyzed using mixed-model analysis. Methylphenidate was hypothesized to improve all measures; all measures were evaluated as potential mediators of methylphenidate-related math improvements. Results: Controls mostly outperformed the ADHD group. Methylphenidate did not affect measures of cognitive functioning (p =.082-.641) or academic motivation (p =.199-.865). Methylphenidate improved parent ratings of their child’s self-perceived competence (p <.01), which mediated methylphenidate efficacy on math productivity. Conclusion: These results question the necessity of improvements in specific cognitive and motivational deficits associated with ADHD for medication-related academic improvement. They also stimulate further study of perceived competence as a mediator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1824-1835
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Attention Disorders
Issue number13
Early online date13 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • academic performance
  • cognition
  • competence
  • methylphenidate

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