Methylphenidate: a Possible Brain Stimulant

by Ari Magill, MD

Methylphenidate, a common stimulant medication used in the treatment of ADD, improved both motivation and cognition in a study group of community-dwelling veterans with mild Alzheimer’s disease (AD), demonstrated by Padala et al.1 Cognition was measured for 12 weeks using a cognitive screening test known as the mini-mental status exam. Participants were started on a dosage of 5 mg twice daily, which was then titrated up to 10 mg twice daily at week two. In addition to a diagnosis of AD, all study participants had symptoms of apathy, a common behavioral consequence of AD.

The Takeaway:

This attention deficit disorder medication could also help stimulate the minds in people with cognitive disorders.
Apathy, in the context of cognitive impairment, is used to describe a severe, profound loss of motivation, even for activities that were previously enjoyed. It is suspected to advance degeneration of neurons during the disease process since having it along with mild cognitive impairment increased the likelihood of progression to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.2


  1. Padala PR, et al. Methylphenidate for apathy in community-dwelling older veterans with mild Alzheimer’s disease: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2018;175(2): 159-168. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17030316.
  2. Ruthirakuhan M, et al. The roles of apathy and depression in predicting Alzheimer disease: a longitudinal analysis in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2019;27(8): 873-882. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2019.02.003.

About the Author

Dr. Ari Magill is a holistic neurologist and medical consultant based in Mesa, AZ. He received medical school training at University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas and residency training at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He is passionate about finding innovative treatments for cognitive impairment, emphasizing lifestyle change and natural supplements.