Sleep Disorder Drug May Boost Thinking

A drug often used to treat sleep disorders--it's brand name is Provigil--may also improve cognition, planning skills and decision-making, according to research at the University of Oxford.

While the medication, also known as modafinil. has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, many of its users are students using it off-label to help them study more effectively.

The researchers reviewed 24 placebo-controlled studies on the drug, which included more than 700 healthy individuals, and evaluated the subjects’ planning and decision-making, flexibility, learning, memory and creativity.

The results showed that the drug did improve certain areas of cognition, including executive function (the ability to scan through information and make appropriate decisions based on it), attention span, and memory. But it was found to have little effect on creativity, motor excitability, working memory, or a person’s ability to divide their attention.

Modafinil is a relatively safe drug with few side effects that include insomnia, headache, stomach ache or nausea. But these effects were also found in the placebo group.

The findings were published online in Neuropsychopharmacology.

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