, Volume 95, Issue 3, pp 303–312 | Cite as

Low doses of methylphenidate (Ritalin) may alter the delay-of-reinforcement gradient

  • Terje Sagvolden
  • Knut Sl»tta
  • Erik Arntzen
Original Investigations


The present study investigated effects of methylphenidate on spatio-temporal distributions of responses generated by a fixed interval 60-s schedule of reinforcement. A response panel with 20 different response locations (holes) made it possible to distinguish effects of the drug on the procedurally-correct response (correct according to the contingencies) and effects on other topographically similar responses acting as functionally-adequate responses. Detailed flow charts show how the dynamics of responding changed with dose and segment of the fixed interval. The number of holes visited was increased after low and medium doses, but decreased after high doses. The spatial differences between responses in the initial and the final parts of the fixed interval gradually disappeared after 6 mg/kg or higher doses as the functionally-adequate responses moved to earlier segments of the fixed interval. Few results could, however, be described as response rate dependent. Distributions of responses around the correct hole illustrated differences between procedurally-correct and functionally-adequate classes. The number of holes included in the latter class changed by dose in an inverted U-shaped fashion. Perseverations and stereotyped responding increased with increasing dose. Most of the effects may be described as motor stimulatory. One way of explaining the stimulatory effect is in terms of a lengthened delay-of-reinforcement gradient. The rate-dependent effect of methylphenidate on the procedurally-correct class after some doses may have been due to the combined effects of a lengthened delay gradient increasing the response rates early in the interval and interference from perseverations having their most detrimental effects on the high rates late in the interval.

Key words

Ritalin Methylphenidate Rate dependency Delay of reinforcement Temporal response distribution Spatial response distribution Nose-poke responses Rats 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terje Sagvolden
    • 1
  • Knut Sl»tta
    • 1
  • Erik Arntzen
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of NeurophysiologyUniversity of OsloOslo 1Norway

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