A new animal study using mice suggests that a particular medication for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder may also work in changing the brain following the same mechanism that cocaine can elicit. According to a research conducted at the Rockefeller University, Ritalin (methylphenidate) can cause certain physical changes in the neurons located in the mouse brain’s reward region. There are even some cases where in the medication’s effects are able to override the effects of cocaine.
The study was conducted by a group of scientists led by Yong Kim, Paul Greengard and Vincent Astor of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. The researchers injected cocaine or methylphenidate into the mouse subjects everyday for two weeks. After that, they observed the mechanism in the reward regions of the brain. They are particularly in search for certain changes in the dendritic spine formation. This process is linked to synaptic formation which is essentially how nerve cells communicated with one another. They are also on the lookout for the manifestation of a particular protein – the delta
Fos B – which was linked to long-term effects of addiction to drugs.
According to the study, there were considerable increases in the formation of spinal dendrites as well as the on the expression of the brain protein. But the effects and their mechanisms are quite distinct from each other. There was a difference in the spines as well as the regions and which particular cells that was affected by the treatments. There were cases when the effects of the drugs overlapped each other in certain brain areas and there are also instances when “methylphenidate produced greater effects than cocaine, for example on protein expression in certain regions.”
“Methylphenidate, which is thought to be a fairly innocuous compound, can have structural and biochemical effects in some regions of the brain that can be even greater than those of cocaine,” says Kim. “Further studies are needed to determine the behavioral implications of these changes and to understand the mechanisms by which these drugs affect synapse formation.”
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