Send to

Choose Destination
Behav Brain Funct. 2005 Apr 22;1(1):2.

Methylphenidate improves prefrontal cortical cognitive function through alpha2 adrenoceptor and dopamine D1 receptor actions: Relevance to therapeutic effects in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Author information

Department of Neurobiology, Yale Medical School, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.



Methylphenidate (MPH) is the classic treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), yet the mechanisms underlying its therapeutic actions remain unclear. Recent studies have identified an oral, MPH dose regimen which when given to rats produces drug plasma levels similar to those measured in humans. The current study examined the effects of these low, orally-administered doses of MPH in rats performing a delayed alternation task dependent on prefrontal cortex (PFC), a brain region that is dysfunctional in ADHD, and is highly sensitive to levels of catecholamines. The receptor mechanisms underlying the enhancing effects of MPH were explored by challenging the MPH response with the noradrenergic alpha2 adrenoceptor antagonist, idazoxan, and the dopamine D1 antagonist, SCH23390.


MPH produced an inverted U dose response whereby moderate doses (1.0-2.0 mg/kg, p.o.) significantly improved delayed alternation performance, while higher doses (2.0-3.0 mg/kg, p.o.) produced perseverative errors in many animals. The enhancing effects of MPH were blocked by co-administration of either the alpha2 adrenoceptor antagonist, idazoxan, or the dopamine D1 antagonist, SCH23390, in doses that had no effect on their own.


The administration of low, oral doses of MPH to rats has effects on PFC cognitive function similar to those seen in humans and patients with ADHD. The rat can thus be used as a model for examination of neural mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effects of MPH on executive functions in humans. The efficacy of idazoxan and SCH23390 in reversing the beneficial effects of MPH indicate that both noradrenergic alpha2 adrenoceptor and dopamine D1 receptor stimulation contribute to cognitive-enhancing effects of MPH.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center