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Translating methylphenidate’s efficacy on selective and sustained attentional deficits to those reported in childhood cancer survivors: A qualitative review

Lookup NU author(s): Alexander Hagan, Dr Sarah Verity


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Whilst an increasing number of children survive previously incurable cancers of the central nervous system (CNS), associated treatments often result in significant neurocognitive late effects. Methylphenidate provides some signs of alleviating cognitive difficulties in different pediatric groups; however, a minimal amount of systematic work has explored its effectiveness isolated to vulnerable attentional domains. The current review aimed to explore the effectiveness of methylphenidate isolated to two attentional domains (sustained and selective attention)—with an aim to substantiate its utility in childhood cancer survivors. Five databases were comprehensively searched for relevant articles. A purpose-developed tool was used to assess each study’s robustness and research quality. Eleven out of 1,865 identified articles were included within the review. Studies drew upon five clinical populations. Individual attentional domains demonstrate variation in their response to methylphenidate. Sustained attention demonstrated the most consistent benefit of methylphenidate, reported largely in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) groups. Gains in selective attention and higher-order cognitive functions appeared to follow initial gains in sustained attention. Childhood cancer survivors report greater gains in selective attention compared to sustained attention. Higher doses may yield greater benefit for children with more diffuse attentional deficits. There is a need to improve the validity of current attentional measures before further methylphenidate trials are conducted.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hagan AJ, Verity SJ

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Applied Neuropsychology: Child

Year: 2023

Volume: 12

Issue: 1

Pages: 74-87

Online publication date: 02/02/2022

Acceptance date: 02/12/2021

ISSN (print): 2162-2965

ISSN (electronic): 2162-2973


DOI: 10.1080/21622965.2022.2025538