Aims: In previous studies, the histamine-3 receptor antagonist CEP-26401 had a subtle effect on spatial working memory, with the best effect seen at the lowest dose tested (20 μg), and a dose-dependent disruption of sleep. In the current study, 3 low-dose levels of CEP-26401 were compared with modafinil and donepezil. Methods: In this double-blind, placebo- and positive-controlled, randomized, partial 6-way cross-over study, 40 healthy subjects received single doses of placebo, CEP-26401 (5, 25 or 125 μg) or modafinil 200 mg or donepezil 10 mg. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic measurements were performed predose and at designated time points postdose. Results: The main endpoint between-errors of the spatial working memory-10-boxes task only improved for the 125 μg dose of CEP-26401 with a difference of 2.92 (confidence interval [CI] –1.21 to 7.05), 3.24 (CI –1.57 to 8.04) and 7.45 (CI 2.72 to 12.19) for respectively the 5, 25 and 125 μg dose of CEP-26401, −1.65 (CI –0.572 to 1.96) for modafinil and − 3.55 (CI –7.13 to 0.03) for donepezil. CEP-26401 induced an improvement of adaptive tracking, saccadic peak velocity and reaction time during N-back, but a dose-related inhibition of sleep and slight worsening of several cognitive parameters at the highest dose. CEP-26401 significantly changed several subjective visual analogue scales, which was strongest at 25 μg, causing the same energizing and happy feeling as modafinil, but with a more relaxed undertone. Discussion: Of the doses tested, the 25 μg dose of CEP-26401 had the most optimal balance between favourable subjective effects and sleep inhibition. Whether CEP-26401 can have beneficial effects in clinical practice remains to be studied.