Neurogenesis Within the Hippocampus After Chronic Methylphenidate Exposure

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Methylphenidate is a psychostimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Neurogenesis occurs throughout adulthood within the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus and can be altered by psychoactive medications; however, the impact of methylphenidate on neurogenesis is not fully understood. We investigated the effects of chronic low (1 mg/kg) and high (10 mg/kg) intraperitoneal doses of methylphenidate on neurogenesis in mouse hippocampus following 28 days and 56 days of treatment. Interestingly, methylphenidate, at both doses, increased neurogenesis. However, if methylphenidate treatment was not continued, the newly generated cells did not survive after 28 days. If treatment was continued, the newly generated neurons survived only in the mice receiving low-dose methylphenidate. To investigate the mechanism for this effect, we examined levels of proteins linked to cell proliferation in the hippocampus, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB), and beta-catenin. BDNF or GDNF levels were not significantly different between groups. However, hippocampal VEGF, TrkB, and beta-catenin were significantly increased in mice receiving low-dose methylphenidate for 28 days compared to controls. Interestingly, high-dose methylphenidate significantly decreased beta-catenin after 28 days and decreased VEGF, beta-catenin, and TrkB after 56 days compared to controls. Thus, low-dose methylphenidate appears to increase cell proliferation and cell survival in the hippocampus, and these effects may be mediated by increase in VEGF, TrkB, and beta-catenin. While high dose methylphenidate may initially increase neuronal proliferation, newly generated neurons are unable to survive long-term, possibly due to decrease in VEGF, TrkB and beta-catenin.