Pitt Research Helps Explain How Ritalin Sharpens Attention; New Work Connects Dots Between Brain Cells, Behavior, and ADHD Drug

Even half a century after a drug comes on the market, scientists can still learn new things about how it works. New research from University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) neuroscientists provides a rare look at how Ritalin affects activity in the brains of animals, providing a deeper understanding of how groups of brain cells govern attention and pointing to new possible uses for the stimulant. Approximately 1 in 11 children in the U.S. are prescribed stimulants like methylphenidate (also known by its brand name Ritalin) to improve attention and focus in people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many more adults, an estimated 1 in 5 according to surveys, also use the drugs off-label. And while the safety and efficacy of these drugs is well understood, there’s still much left to learn about how they work. “We really know very little about what these drugs do to the activity of groups of neurons,” said senior study author Marlene Cohen, PhD, a Professor of Neuroscience in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at Pitt. “But basic scientists like us have been investigating what groups of neurons can tell us about behavior and cognition, and so understanding what these drugs do to groups of neurons can maybe give us hints about other things that they would be useful for.”

Login Or Register To Read Full Story