(HealthDay News) – A single dose of methylphenidate, a drug used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy, improves gait control in healthy older adults and may reduce their risk of falling, according to a study published in The Journals of Gerontology.

Zamir Shorer, MD, and colleagues from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel, randomly assigned 30 healthy older adults (mean age, 74.9 years) who were able to walk ≥20 meters without assistance to a single dose of placebo or methylphenidate. The subjects were assessed for gait and postural stability under two single-task and two dual-task conditions involving motor and cognitive tasks.

The researchers found that the methylphenidate group had significant improvements in narrow base walking in both single and dual tasks, with fewer step errors and a lower step error rate. However, there was no improvement noted in postural stability.

“A single dose of methylphenidate was able to improve gait function in older adults, especially in complex dual tasks that require higher executive control,” Shorer and colleagues conclude. “This could largely account for the effects of methylphenidate on a sustained attention dual task, but direct effects on the motor system may have also played a role.”

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