The therapeutic and stimulant properties of methylphenidate (MP), a drug commonly prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, have been attributed to increases in synaptic dopamine (DA) concentrations resulting from the blockade of DA transporters. In addition to obvious difficulties inherent in any interspecies comparison, interpretation of preclinical studies done with MP is further complicated by different routes of administration in animals (i.v. and i.p.) compared with humans (oral). In the present study we compared the effects of i.p. and intragastric (oral) MP both on rat nucleus accumbens DA assessed by in vivo microdialysis and on locomotor activity measured in a photocell apparatus. We also compared regional brain uptake and plasma levels of [3H]MP after administration of 5 mg/kg via both routes. Intraperitoneal MP (5 and 10 mg/kg) was approximately twice as potent as intragastric MP in terms of increasing extracellular DA levels and in stimulating locomotion. This was consistent with the higher brain uptake of [3H]MP when given i.p. rather than intragastrically. The dose of 2 mg/kg produced significant increases in both measurements when administered i.p., but not intragastrically. This study shows that relatively low doses of MP (2 mg i.p. and 5 mg intragastric) significantly increase extracellular DA and locomotor activity and indicates that the differences in the neurochemical and behavioral effects of MP between the intragastric and the i.p. routes are due to central drug bioavailability.
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