, Volume 86, Issue 1–2, pp 90–95 | Cite as

The effect of methylphenidate on information processing

  • Hilary Naylor
  • Roy Halliday
  • Enoch Callaway
Original Investigations


Models of information processing currently popular in cognitive psychology divide the reaction process into a series of discrete separable stages. The distinction between one stage and another is verified by the additive factors method (AFM) as defined by Sternberg (1969). Task factors that do not interact with each other are inferred to affect different stages. The distinction between stimulus evaluation stages and response selection stages has been supported by brain event related potential (ERP) studies. The latency of the P300 component of the ERP is sensitive to changes in stimulus complexity but not to to changes in response complexity. The focus of this research is to determine the effects of stimulant drugs on stages of information processing using both reaction time (RT) and P300 latency within an AFM framework. four doses of methylphenidate (MP) were used in a within-subjects design to examine the effects of MP on stimulus and response processing. We found that MP speeds RT, and that this effect does not interact with the effect of stimulus complexity on RT. MP dose interacts with response complexity, the dose for optimal speeding varying with the level of complexity. The latency of P300 is increased by stimulus complexity, and not by response complexity, nor is it affected by MP. These results show that the stimulant drug acts on processes involved in response selection, rather than in stimulus evaluation. Individual differences in drug response are dose dependent, but also point to an effect on response processing.

Key words

Information Processing Stimulants Event Related Potentials 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hilary Naylor
    • 1
  • Roy Halliday
    • 1
  • Enoch Callaway
    • 1
  1. 1.Langley Porter Psychiatric InstituteSan FranciscoUSA

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