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Attention deficits after traumatic brain injury (TBI) are common and disabling. Many pharmacologic agents have been used to ameliorate attention deficits, and considerable interest has focused on methylphenidate (MP) because of its documented efficacy in attention deficit disorder. However, clinical studies of MP in subjects with TBI have yielded mixed results. We examined the effects of MP on attentional function in individuals with TBI referred specifically for attentional assessment and treatment. Subjects were studied in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeated crossover design, using five different tasks designed to measure various facets of attentional function. MP produced a significant improvement in the speed of mental processing. Orienting to distractions, most aspects of sustained attention, and measures of motor speed were unaffected. These results suggest that MP may be a useful treatment in TBI but is primarily useful for symptoms that can be attributed to slowed mental processing.