Drug improves attention, memory in adults with ADHD, study finds

June 29 (UPI) -- A drug designed to stimulate brain activity may help with excessive daydreaming, lethargy, poor memory retrieval and focusing problems in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a study published Tuesday by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found.

The stimulant lisdexamfetamine, which is sold as Vyvanse, reduced these symptoms, collectively known as sluggish cognitive tempo, by 30%, the data showed.


In addition, those who received the drug had "fewer episodes of procrastination," as well as an enhanced ability to "keep things in mind" and "strengthened prioritization skills" while seeing their ADHD symptoms improve by 40%.

One-quarter of the overall improvement in sluggish cognitive tempo, such as feelings of boredom, trouble staying alert and signs of confusion, were due to improvements in ADHD symptoms, researchers said.

"Our study provides further evidence that sluggish cognitive tempo may be distinct from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and that the stimulant lisdexamfetamine treats both conditions in adults, and when they occur together," study co-author Dr. Lenard Adler said in a press release.

Sluggish cognitive tempo is likely a subset of symptoms commonly seen in some patients with ADHD and other psychiatric disorders, said Adler, who directs the adult ADHD program at NYU Langone Health in New York City.


However, it is unclear whether sluggish cognitive tempo is a distinct psychiatric condition or if stimulants such as lisdexamfetamine help resolve it in patients without ADHD, he said.

Some specialists have sought to qualify sluggish cognitive tempo as distinct, but critics say more research is needed to settle the question, according to Adler, who treats adults and children with ADHD.

For this study, funded by the drug's manufacturer -- Takeda Pharmaceuticals, which is headquartered in Tokyo but has U.S. operations based in Cambridge, Mass. -- 76 volunteer participants received daily doses of either lisdexamfetamine or a placebo sugar pill for one month.

Researchers tracked participants' psychiatric health on a weekly basis through standardized tests for signs and symptoms of sluggish cognitive tempo and ADHD, as well as other measures of brain function.

Study participants then switched roles. The half who had been taking the placebo started taking daily doses of lisdexamfetamine, while the other half switched to the sugar pill, according to the researchers.

During treatment with lisdexamfetamine, participants reported that their sluggish cognitive tempo symptoms improved by 30%.

At the same time, they indicated that their ADHD symptoms improved by more than 40%, the researchers said.

This suggests that decreases in ADHD-related incidents of physical restlessness, behaving impulsively and moments of not paying attention are linked to some, but not all, of the improvements in sluggish cognitive tempo, they said.


"These findings highlight the importance of assessing symptoms of sluggish cognitive tempo and executive brain function in patients when they are initially diagnosed with ADHD," Adler said.

Latest Headlines