Methylphenidate selectively improves story retelling in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Shonna Francis, Jonathan Fine, Rosemary Tannock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Objectives: The goal of this study was to determine stimulant effects on story grammar, comprehension, and errors in the narratives of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with and without comorbid language impairment. Previous research has demonstrated impairments in the narrative abilities of children with ADHD, but the effect of the primary treatment modality (methylphenidate) is unknown. Methods: Fifty children with ADHD (7 to 12 years of age) were stratified for language impairment that might influence performance. In an acute, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial with two single doses (10 and 20 mg) of methylphenidate, the children listened to an audiotaped story while viewing a wordless picture book of the study, then retold the story and answered comprehension questions. The narratives were transcribed and coded for story grammar, length, and errors. Results: Methylphenidate only increased children’s reporting of the story characters’ internal responses and attempts. It had no effect on story length or responses to comprehension questions. Responses to the factual questions were significantly more accurate than the inferential questions, irrespective of medication dose. Comorbid language impairment had no effect on performance or stimulant response. Conclusion: Story grammar analysis was sensitive to drug effects, which were subtle but specific and clinically meaningful. Results provide evidence for the theoretical linkage between internal responses and attempts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-228
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2001


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