Dopamine and norepinephrine receptors participate in methylphenidate enhancement of in vivo hippocampal synaptic plasticity.

PMID 25445492


Attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly studied and diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children. Methylphenidate (MPH, e.g., Ritalin) has been used to treat ADHD for over 50 years. It is the most commonly prescribed treatment for ADHD, and in the past decade it was the drug most commonly prescribed to teenagers. In addition, MPH has become one of the most widely abused drugs on college campuses. In this study, we examined the effects of MPH on hippocampal synaptic plasticity, which serves as a measurable quantification of memory mechanisms. Field potentials were recorded with permanently implanted electrodes in freely-moving mice to quantify MPH modulation of perforant path synaptic transmission onto granule cells of the dentate gyrus. Our hypothesis was that MPH affects hippocampal synaptic plasticity underlying learning because MPH boosts catecholamine signaling by blocking the dopamine and norepinephrine transporters (DAT and NET respectively). In vitro hippocampal slice experiments indicated MPH enhances perforant path plasticity, and this MPH enhancement arose from action via D1-type dopamine receptors and β-type adrenergic receptors. Similarly, MPH boosted in vivo initiation of long-term potentiation (LTP). While there was an effect via both dopamine and adrenergic receptors in vivo, LTP induction was more dependent on the MPH-induced action via D1-type dopamine receptors. Under biologically reasonable experimental conditions, MPH enhances hippocampal synaptic plasticity via catecholamine receptors.