Chronic Adolescent Exposure to Methylphenidate Affects Physiology, Behavior, and Cocaine Preference

Daniela Senior

This is a two dimensional model of the 3 chambered compartment that is used to test cocaine preference.

This is a two dimensional model of the 3-chambered compartment that is used to test cocaine preference.

Undergraduate Student Project


Ritalin, also known as Methylphenidate (MP), is prescribed to patients diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It is a nervous system stimulant (psychostimulant) and cocaine falls under a similar category.

Hello, my name is Daniela Senior. I am a Senior Biology Major at the University at Buffalo. With the support of the Experimental Learning Network funding, I conducted research at Thanos Lab, under Dr. Peter Thanos as my principal investigator. Dr. Thanos' Lab studies the underlying mechanisms for drug addiction disorders, alcoholism and obesity, as well as the co-morbidity of these diseases. My job this past year was to monitor the animal-subject, perform behavior and statistical tests.

Both Methylphenidate and cocaine consumption create a stimulating effect in individuals. Pre-exposure to Methylphenidate in adolescence can lead to inclination of cocaine use in the future. I was interested in studying  exactly what effects chronic Methylphenidate drug exposure had on physiology, behavior and cocaine preference, as both drugs act in similar ways.


Methylphenidate, more commonly known as ritalin, is often prescribed to adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In recent years, there has been an increase in recreational use of Methylphenidate amongst the student population (Morton, Alexander 2000). With an increase in its use, it is crucial to understand the potential physiological effects, behavioral effects, and cocaine preference. In this study, an animal model (Sprague, Dawley rat) was used to observe effects of chronic Methylphenidate exposure. Everyday, rats' body weight and fluid consumption were monitored. Animals received 4 weeks of methylphenidate drug treatment before cocaine preference was tested. Other behavioral tests were performed to monitor effects of  Methylphenidate on rats. After analyzing the results, it was determined that Methylphenidate decreases depressive and anxiety-like behaviors. However, it had no effect on  cocaine preference. Better understanding of Methylphenidate will help with the education of the physiological and behavioral effects that chronic consumption can insinuate.

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