Monday, October 10, 2005

Brain Boost   posted by Fly @ 10/10/2005 12:30:00 PM

(Jason Malloy provided this interesting link in the GNXP Forum)

Smarter on Drugs

“Just as Ritalin can improve the academic performance of hyperactive children, it can do the same for normal children. It is commonly thought to boost SAT scores by more than 100 points, for both the hyperactive and the normal user. Many healthy young people now use it that way for that purpose, and quite frankly, there is no stopping this abuse.”

I found this claim interesting. I don’t have the background or knowledge to evaluate it. Hopefully knowledgeable readers will comment.

Up to 5% of males are diagnosed as having ADHD. Many schools require medication for kids diagnosed as having ADHD. Wouldn’t a 100-point boost in SAT scores show up in national test scores? Is there any study that backs up the author’s claim?

Note that 100 SAT points is equivalent to about 7 IQ points. But even if the 100-point claim is valid that doesn’t mean that Ritalin is increasing IQ. E.g., vocabulary test correlate highly with IQ tests. But having access to an online dictionary that significantly improved one’s performance on a vocabulary test wouldn’t increase a person’s IQ. It would just break the connection between tested vocabulary and IQ. Likewise Ritalin might increase the ability to focus and so increase test performance but that increased performance might not reflect increased “g”.

(Many abilities correlate with “g”. As biotech improves so that specific abilities can be enhanced, it is not clear to me that “g” is being increased. The science of measuring “g” will have to adapt to advancing brain tech.)

This article says that under long-term treatment with Ritalin, ADHD children showed a 2.5 point increase in total IQ. Other articles claim there is no improvement in IQ (In fact some articles claim that if used too early, Ritalin can hinder proper brain development.)

(I would like an online resource that numerically documented the mental effects of substances such as caffeine and Ritalin.)