Alterations in brain neurotrophic and glial factors following early age chronic methylphenidate and cocaine administration

Yaarit Simchon-Tenenbaum, Abraham Weizman, Moshe Rehavi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) overdiagnosis and a pharmacological attempt to increase cognitive performance, are the major causes for the frequent (ab)use of psychostimulants in non-ADHD individuals. Methylphenidate is a non-addictive psychostimulant, although its mode of action resembles that of cocaine, a well-known addictive and abused drug. Neuronal- and glial-derived growth factors play a major role in the development, maintenance and survival of neurons in the central nervous system. We hypothesized that methylphenidate and cocaine treatment affect the expression of such growth factors. Beginning on postnatal day (PND) 14, male Sprague Dawley rats were treated chronically with either cocaine or methylphenidate. The rats were examined behaviorally and biochemically at several time points (PND 35, 56, 70 and 90). On PND 56, rats treated with cocaine or methylphenidate from PND 14 through PND 35 exhibited increased hippocampal glial-cell derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) mRNA levels, after 21 withdrawal days, compared to the saline-treated rats. We found a significant association between cocaine and methylphenidate treatments and age progression in the prefrontal protein expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Neither treatments affected the behavioral parameters, although acute cocaine administration was associated with increased locomotor activity. It is possible that the increased hippocampal GDNF mRNA levels, may be relevant to the reduced rate of drug seeking behavior in ADHD adolescence that were maintained from childhood on methylphenidate. BDNF protein level increase with age, as well as following stimulant treatments at early age may be relevant to the neurobiology and pharmacotherapy of ADHD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-132
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
  • Cocaine
  • Glial-cell derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF)
  • Methylphenidate (MPH)


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