People who take Ritalin, the drug commonly prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, are far more aware of their mistakes, according to a University of Melbourne study that suggests why it may help some students perform better in school.
Researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute sought to determine how the brain monitors ongoing behavior for performance errors – specifically failures of impulse control, common in people with ADD – by studying a group of healthy volunteers.
What they found is that a single dose of Ritalin (methylphenidate) results in “significantly greater activity in the brain’s error monitoring network” and, as a result, improved volunteers’ awareness of their mistakes.
Reporting in the Journal of Neuroscience, lead researcher Dr. Rob Hester noted people who aren’t as aware of their mistakes have a harder time correcting their behavior. That so-called “diminished awareness” is common in people with ADD as well as other mental health disorders.
“Understanding the brain mechanisms that underlie how we become conscious of our mistakes is an important first step in improving error awareness, and potentially reducing these symptoms,” Hester said.