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Chronic oral methylphenidate treatment increases microglial activation in rats


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.

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This research was funded by the New York Research Foundation [Q0942016] and the National Institute of Health [R01HD70888].

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Correspondence to Panayotis K. Thanos.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.

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Carias, E., Hamilton, J., Robison, L.S. et al. Chronic oral methylphenidate treatment increases microglial activation in rats. J Neural Transm 125, 1867–1875 (2018).

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