Animal models and human studies have identified the potential of modafinil as a cognitive enhancing agent, independent of its effects on promoting wakefulness in sleep-deprived samples. Given that single-dose applications of other putative memory enhancers (eg, d-cycloserine, yohimbine, and methylene blue) have shown success in enhancing clinical outcomes for anxiety-related disorders, we conducted a meta-analytic review examining the potential for single-dose effects for modafinil on cognitive functioning in non–sleep-deprived adults.
A total of 19 placebo-controlled trials that examined the effects of single-dose modafinil versus placebo on the cognitive domains of attention, executive functioning, memory, or processing speed were identified, allowing for the calculation of 67 cognitive domain–specific effect sizes.
The overall positive effect of modafinil over placebo across all cognitive domains was small and significant (g = 0.10; 95% confidence interval, 0.05–0.15; P < 0.001). No significant differences between cognitive domains were found. Likewise, no significant moderation was found for modafinil dose (100 mg vs 200 mg) or for the populations studied (psychiatric vs nonpsychiatric).
In conclusion, the available evidence indicates only limited potential for modafinil to act as a cognitive enhancer outside sleep-deprived populations.