Research Claims Ritalin Improves Ability to Learn
Ritalin (methylphenidate), a drug prescribed for millions of children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), appears to improve the ability to learn by enhancing the speed of learning. Currently, Ritalin is prescribed to help inhibit impulsive behaviour, which in turn can improve a child’s ability to focus on tasks.
The new finding is the result of research by investigators at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). It is significant because it lets scientists know that Ritalin impacts and improves behaviour through two specific types of neurotransmitter receptors rather than just one. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that act as messengers to allow neurons to communicate with each other.
Previously experts knew that Ritalin enhanced the activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine receptor known as D2, which controls the ability to stay focused on a task. The new research shows that another dopamine receptor called D1, which is involved in the ability to learn and learning efficiency, is also affected by Ritalin. Apparently the drug produces these benefits by strengthening the ability of the neurons to communicate with each other at their meeting points, called synapses.
These new findings may allow researchers to develop more efficient drugs to treat ADHD and to improve the ability to focus and learn more efficiently, according to Antonello Bonci, MD, principal investigator at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center and professor of neurology at UCSF.