Chronic oral methylphenidate treatment increases microglial activation in rats

Emily Carias, John Hamilton, Lisa S. Robison, Foteini Delis, Rina Eiden, Teresa Quattrin, Michael Hadjiargyrou, David Komatsu, Panayotis K. Thanos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Methylphenidate (MP) is a widely prescribed psychostimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Previously, we established a drinking paradigm to deliver MP to rats at doses that result in pharmacokinetic profiles similar to treated patients. In the present study, adolescent male rats were assigned to one of three groups: control (water), low-dose MP (LD; 4/10 mg/kg), and high dose MP (HD; 30/60 mg/kg). Following 3 months of treatment, half of the rats in each group were euthanized, and the remaining rats received only water throughout a 1-month-long abstinence phase. In vitro autoradiography using [3H] PK 11195 was performed to measure microglial activation. HD MP rats showed increased [3H] PK 11195 binding compared to control rats in several cerebral cortical areas: primary somatosensory cortex including jaw (68.6%), upper lip (80.1%), barrel field (88.9%), and trunk (78%) regions, forelimb sensorimotor area (87.3%), secondary somatosensory cortex (72.5%), motor cortices 1 (73.2%) and 2 (69.3%), insular cortex (59.9%); as well as subcortical regions including the thalamus (62.9%), globus pallidus (79.4%) and substantia nigra (22.7%). Additionally, HD MP rats showed greater binding compared to LD MP rats in the hippocampus (60.6%), thalamus (59.6%), substantia nigra (38.5%), and motor 2 cortex (55.3%). Following abstinence, HD MP rats showed no significant differences compared to water controls; however, LD MP rats showed increased binding in pre-limbic cortex (78.1%) and ventromedial caudate putamen (113.8%). These findings indicate that chronic MP results in widespread microglial activation immediately after treatment and following the cessation of treatment in some brain regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1867-1875
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neural Transmission
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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