Neuromodulating agents

Neuromodulating agents

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ADHD medication: Ritalin

Methylphenidate (Ritalin)

  • lifts the mood and
  • increases memory performance as well
  • the cognitive skills.

Methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Methylpheni®, Concerta®, Equasym®, Medikinet®) is the best-known active ingredient for the treatment of attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder AD (H) S. Like the neurotransmitters dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline, this active ingredient belongs to the phenylethylamines - which also includes amphetamines and ecstasy and a number of other drugs. In contrast to cocaine, methylphenidate and amphetamine are approved as prescription drugs because they have a certain medical benefit, but they still have a considerable potential for addiction. While methylphenidate has a calming effect on children with ADHD, it is believed to have a positive effect on the mood, behavior, and cognitive performance of healthy people.

The science magazine Nature had launched an online survey, the results of which were published in April 2008 (Nature: Poll results). A total of 1428 scientists took part in this survey. 20% of the participants stated that they had resorted to such neuroenhancers occasionally to regularly to improve their concentration, attention or memory - in 62% of all cases with Ritalin. Hardly any of the users had previously informed themselves about the side effects of this drug.

In AD (H) D, the dopamine metabolism in the brain is impaired - this neurotransmitter is presumably reabsorbed too quickly by dopamine transporters after it has been released into the synaptic gap. The dopamine concentration in the synaptic cleft drops. Too little dopamine binds to the target cell's receptors to be able to pass the signal on. Methylphenidate works in the synaptic cleft by binding to the dopamine transporter on the dopamine-releasing cell and blocking the return transport of dopamine. In addition, methylphenidate binds to the D2 receptor on the membrane of the downstream neuron.

A 2010 study showed that methylphenidate can accelerate learning in rats. The active ingredient binds to two variants of the dopamine receptor, the D1 and D2 receptors. While binding to the D2 receptor promotes concentration and has a positive effect on AD (H) D, the effect that increases learning performance is mediated by binding to the D1 receptor. This study also showed that methylphenidate increases the number of synapses in the brain, which also has a positive effect on brain performance (Apotheken-Umschau2010).

In other studies carried out on humans, however, the effect of this drug on learning performance was significantly lower - cognitive tests with methylphenidate show only a small positive effect on performance, which was hardly above the effect of the placebo.

Side effects

Regular use of methylphenidate is associated with significant side effects - very common1, Symptoms mentioned are nervousness, insomnia, headaches and loss of appetite, common2) High blood pressure, vomiting, weight loss, muscle tics, drowsiness, emotional lability, drowsiness, anxiety, depression, nervousness and rashes were mentioned. When Ritalin is taken by people with psychosis, it may also worsen behavioral and thinking disorders. There is also a risk of psychological dependence. Methylphenidate has been listed in Appendix 3 of the Narcotics Act (BtMG) since 1971 and is subject to a separate prescription requirement.


Arria, A. M .; Wish, E. D. (2006):Nonmedical use of prescription stimulants among students.. In: Pediatr Ann.. 35, 565-71


Tye, K. M .; Tye, L. D .; Cone, J. J .; Hekkelman, E. F .; Janak, P. H .; Bonci, A. (2010):Methylphenidate facilitates learning-induced amygdala plasticity.. In: Nat. Neurosci.. Epub ahead of print