Methylphenidate reduces orienting bias in healthy individuals

Leehe Peled-Avron, Hagar Gelbard Goren, Noa Brande-Eilat, Shirel Dorman-Ilan, Aviv Segev, Kfir Feffer, Hila Z. Gvirts Problovski, Yechiel Levkovitz, Yael Barnea, Yael D. Lewis, Rachel Tomer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Healthy individuals show subtle orienting bias, a phenomenon known as pseudoneglect, reflected in a tendency to direct greater attention toward one hemispace. Accumulating evidence indicates that this bias is an individual trait, and attention is preferentially directed contralaterally to the hemisphere with higher dopamine signaling. Administration of methylphenidate (MPH), a dopamine transporter inhibitor, was shown to normalize aberrant spatial attention bias in psychiatric and neurological patients, suggesting that the reduced orienting bias following administration of MPH reflects an asymmetric effect of the drug, increasing extracellular dopamine in the hemisphere with lower dopamine signaling. Aim: We predicted that, similarly to its effect on patients with brain pathology, MPH will reduce the orienting bias in healthy subjects. Methods: To test this hypothesis, we examined the behavioral effects of a single dose (20 mg) of MPH on orienting bias in 36 healthy subjects (18 females) in a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled, within-subject design, using the greyscales task, which has been shown to detect subtle attentional biases in both patients and healthy individuals. Results/outcomes: Results demonstrate that healthy individuals vary in both direction and magnitude of spatial orienting bias and show reduced magnitude of orienting bias following MPH administration, regardless of the initial direction of asymmetry. Conclusions/interpretations: Our findings reveal, for the first time in healthy subjects, that MPH decreases spatial orienting bias in an asymmetric manner. Given the well-documented association between orienting bias and asymmetric dopamine signaling, these findings also suggest that MPH might exert a possible asymmetric neural effect in the healthy brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)760-767
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • Spatial attention
  • asymmetry
  • dopamine
  • individual differences
  • pseudoneglect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology


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