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Drug effects on psychomotor performance

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    Drug effects on psychomotor performance. By randall c baselt (Pp 475, US$109.00). Published by Biomedical Publications, Foster City, 2001. ISBN 0-9626523-4-2.

    This book is essentially a compendium of the literature on the effects of various medications on cognitive function. It begins with a brief introduction, which could have done with some expanding. There are many difficulties involved in cognitive testing, and there are many different settings where testing can be carried out. Unfortunately, the limitations to the work discussed in the rest of the book are covered in a single page. Several important theoretical issues with regard to test design, including test selection, controlling for practice effects, using appropriate controls etc, are barely glossed over, but deserve consideration for anybody interpreting the contributions on any single drug.

    The bulk of the text (nearly 500 pages) covers the literature on a vast range of drugs that may effect CNS function, from alprazolam to zopiclone, each drug being reviewed in a strict format, covering two to four or five pages. The pharmacology is described, before the laboratory studies. Driving studies and epidemiological data are given where available. There is then a brief paragraph on conclusions. The text is well referenced.

    This is obviously a book for reference only, and does not lend itself to anything but the briefest of dipping. It represents a considerable labour of love on behalf of the author, and in the same way that his introduction could have been lengthened, it would have been helpful to have had some overall comments at the end of the book as to what he has learned by digesting this vast amount of literature. It seemed clear to me that nearly all of the studies carried out are short term only, often single dose or short repetitive dosing to volunteers. The more subtle interactions between the drugs and the underlying disorder for which they are given and their relation to cognitive function, an extremely important area, seems hardly to have been explored at all.

    The book will be of value to those interested in cognitive function if only because of the many references contained therein, and the ease with which any individual drug can be looked up. It will be of help for clinicians to consult, particularly in a medicolegal context, and is a useful reference book which should be available in the catalogue of any medical library.